10 benefits of outdoor learning

10 benefits of outdoor learning

We know that children love to be outside and most will play happily for hours in the fresh air. As the weather begins to change for the better, you will find more and more opportunities to get the children outside. At this time you are liking to see some of the best learning that a child can experience – both physically, mentally and emotionally.

"Show them how to look after our environment by letting them practise it in real life"

We know outdoor play is great for children, but why?
Here is a list of 10 great benefits of outdoor play:

Outdoor Learning

  1. Gives new and exciting learning opportunities. Picking up a rock and finding lots of mini-beasts underneath, for example, is such an amazing opportunity to develop language, understanding of the world and to learn about caring for living things.
  2. Improves physical health. Children are able to exercise on a much greater level than they can inside, plus they breathe in fresh air whilst doing so. Win/win.
  3. Boosts social and communication skills – when outside, children are likely to be moving around a lot more, navigating one another and negotiating the toys they are playing with. What better opportunity to get them interacting with their peers and solving any problems. This also boosts self-esteem.
  4. Allows you to make the most of wet/windy weather. Teach children that it can be fun to splash in puddles, play under an umbrella and fly ribbons and scarves in the wind. Don’t forget that many parents will just stay indoors in such weather so if you don’t let children experience this, then they may not ever get the chance. This is also yet another opportunity to develop language and understanding of the world.
  5. Encourages good mental health. As adults we are told that fresh air and exercise is good for our mental health. It’s the same for children.
  6. Gives the opportunity to develop gross motor skills as well as fine motor skills. When you are indoors, it is a lot easier to provide activities that develop fine motor skills than gross motor skills, but they are both extremely important. Many outside play areas give children the opportunity to climb/swing/throw – all of which are developing gross motor skills. Children are also able to mark-make on a large scale, for example using chalk on the ground or painting water on the walls.
  7. Teaches children how to look after our environment. We can tell children about this from outdoors but we know the best way for them to learn something is to experience it. Show them how to look after our environment by letting them practise it in real life.
  8. You get to take learning to a child’s favourite activity. If you have a child that is reluctant to engage in a particular activity, then try taking it outside and mixing it in with something that they love.
  9. Teaches about the local area - Going for a walk teaches children about their community, plus they will also begin to learn the basics of road safety.
  10. Offers different sensory experiences – this can be both things specific to outside, such as digging in the mud, or it could be bringing an indoors activity outside, but experiencing it in the wind or sunshine.
The important thing to remember is that some children won’t get these opportunities at home, so make sure you provide them in your setting. It might be that they live somewhere that doesn’t have a garden, or that their parents just don’t take them out. If you don’t have a large outdoor area (or even if you do!) get out and about for walks or visits to the local library. In these vital early years, you can give children a love of the outdoors that they can carry with them into adulthood.

About the author

Gina SmithGina Smith is an experienced teacher with experience of teaching in both mainstream and special education. She is the creator of ‘Create Visual Aids’ – a business that provides both homes and education settings with bespoke visual resources. Gina recognises the fact that no two children are the same and therefore individuals are likely to need different resources. Create Visual Aids is dedicated to making visual symbols exactly how the individual needs them.


Email: gina@createvisualsaids.com

Veterinary Nurses visit Boys & Girls Nursery Stanmore

Veterinary Nurses visit Boys & Girls Nursery Stanmore

Press release from Boys & Girls Nursery Stanmore

Children from Boys & Girls Nursery Stanmore enjoyed a visit from local veterinary practise Medivet to teach them all about looking after cats.

The children were visited by Kavita and Nichola who spoke about the importance of their job, how they look after pets that come into their care and how you can look after cats at home. The children got to use some of the equipment they use in the practice including listening to heartbeats through a stethoscope and using a special brush to learn how to keep a cat’s fur nice and smooth.

The visit came about after the nurseries Pre-School Council decided that they would like to learn about looking after cats as one of their topics of the month. Every month at Boys & Girls Nursery a Pre-School Council is elected, and it is their job to decide what topics both they and their nursery friends would like to learn about. The Pre-School Council allows children to develop their social skills and take on some responsibility in preparation for school.

Natasha Kirby, Director, Boys & Girls Nursery said: “The vet’s visit was a huge hit with the children. They loved learning about looking after cats and using the equipment. Thank you to Kavita and Nichola for taking time out of their busy day to pass on their knowledge to our children”.


Starting a musical journey part 2: Learning how to learn

Starting a musical journey part 2: Learning how to learn

It’s 2006 and I have a new baby. I love music, so I look for a local baby music group. I’m not even sure what to look for, and as a new mum, I cannot find a central directory of services. Finally, I google the right keywords to find a local franchise, but it has a waiting list. (A waiting list? For baby music?!) I look further afield. I find another franchise about an hour’s drive away, with free spaces. Chatting to the teacher after the session, she suggests that because I live so far away, I sign up to the same low-cost franchise and start delivering my own sessions – that way, my little one will definitely attend! Being fairly musical (I had taught myself guitar as a child and sung in the school choir for a couple years), I did it.

Supporting skills: (Part 1)

  • In a circle, children can: (learning relationship)
  • In a line, children can: (learning sequencing)
  • When leaving out the last line of a song, children can: (planning skills)

Supporting skills: (Part 2)

  • Children use language by: (language skills)
  • Weekly sessions: (concentration skills)
  • Children can learn: (memory skills)

Musical skills: (Part 3)

  • Children keep the pulse through: (pulse skills)
  • Children recognise: (rhythm skills)
  • Children can use: (percussion skills)

Musical skills: (Part 4)

  • Listening to music, children can: (listening skills)
  • Children match the pitch by: (pitch skills)
  • Children recognise: (interval skills)

I found out that, firstly, Kodály, Dalcroze and Orff were names of composers from Europe; secondly, they had very similar ideas; and thirdly, they were all, if not friends, then contemporaries who knew of each other and had slightly different views on “the best way to learn music” as a child. “Learning music as a child” is the operative phrase, because learning as an adult is very different – as adults, we already have experience in learning that helps us to relate new knowledge to what we already know. Children have much less experience, and depending on the age of the child, community music leaders may even be their very first experience with teachers. Researching the music education approaches, I noticed a clear progression in 12 skills, loosely divided into supporting skills and musical skills, and all easily introduced using easy-to-learn singing games. This article is part two of a four-part series describing the musical behaviours that we can see and encourage from birth to 7 years old.

Children use language by: (language skills)

Language development plays a big part in singing. It helps to introduce and develop awareness of the child’s surrounding culture and conventions, and introduces ideas and activities from history. We see how language develops from pointing to things, to learning names. Role-play and games allow for language concepts to be explored, particularly games in songs, where characters may perform or behave in a particular way in one line, and then stop in the next. This gives children the opportunity to practice healthy ways to express emotions like being happy, sad, angry or surprised. By allowing children to experiment with behaviours and expressions in a safe, undemanding space, they can safely return to being themselves within moments, helping to develop mastery of emotions by understanding that they are temporary states.

Weekly sessions:
(concentration skills)

Private music sessions with new or unfamiliar people are often advertised from between 30–60 minutes, and part of the reason that many children work well with this arrangement, is the novelty of seeing a new person or going to a new place. At home or in a nursery, where the adult is familiar, it is easier for children to lose focus and attention – put simply, it is easier to say ‘no’. However, we know that to learn effectively, like reading and writing daily, playing music daily is an effective source of creative expression. The compromise is to recognise that not every music session needs to be instructive – we can play for enjoyment. The weekly time guidelines suggest instructive periods with familiar people, ranging from 10 minutes of focused musical play a week, gradually building to 15-, 20-, 30- and then 45-minute sessions. Focused musical play involves deliberate skills scaffolding, sensitively following the interest of the child, and this can be done by introducing a new song, developing a known song (matching the pulse or rhythm), or even creating a new song using newly-developed skills.

Children can learn: (memory skills)

Just as children develop skills gradually in languages, sciences and humanities, so music is a progressive development of skills. Different studies have found that babies can show that they recognise a minimum of 3 out of 5 new songs. But each year, as we know, children are able to recognise or sing more and more songs. This means that in their second year, children may recognise or sing a minimum of an additional 3 songs if they are taught another 5 new songs - in total, they will recognise or sing 6 out of 10 new songs. In their third year, this increases to learning a minimum of an extra 6 out of 10 new songs (or a minimum of 11 out of 20 in total). In their fourth year, they can often recognise or sing one extra song out of 8 new ones (a minimum of 12 out of 28 in total) as they perfect the songs they already know. In their fifth year, children can recognise an extra 4 out of 7 new songs (or 16 out of 35 songs); in their sixth year, children can recognise an extra 6 out of 8 new songs (or 22 out of 42 songs in total). In their seventh year, again, children can recognise a minimum of an extra 6 out of 8 new songs, or 28 out of 50 new songs altogether - bearing in mind that children will often exceed the minimum.This recognition may be in the form of eye contact to start, progressing to movement and singing along, and will vary between children – some will memorise all 50! While it is true that there are some young children that can sing long and complicated songs, they often have significantly more experience from home. Choosing child appropriate songs, with smaller pitch ranges (fewer notes), allows for all children to be successful and therefore enjoy music. By choosing more complex songs, with wide note variations, it is a little like expecting all children to perform complex calculus equations in their heads, or perform Olympic gymnastic routines, or create photo-quality drawings – some children can, but most are not interested enough to practise sufficiently. It can be challenging to find songs with two and then three notes, but a good starting point is the internet, which is full of Kodály material, often free.

These foundational skills set the stage for your child’s future success in learning: once we learn how to learn and not just copy, we can literally learn anything. Sharing skills progressively, one step at a time, helps both adults and children learn new things more thoroughly, and they are remembered for much longer. This is why we take out time in the beginning: using limited pitches/notes helps us to recognise individual notes more clearly; limited rhythms allows us to repeat rhythms more accurately; introducing dynamics one at a time (instructions on loud or soft, fast or slow) allows us to explore the emotion created by playing quickly or quietly, slowly or loudly. And then using these skills in more complex songs in your favourite style, whether pop or rock, country or classical, becomes even more fun! Next month, we look at the ways in which musical skills develop by looking at pulse, rhythm and percussion.


About the author

Frances Turnbull

Musician, researcher and author, Frances Turnbull, is a self-taught guitarist who has played contemporary and community music from the age of 12. She delivers music sessions to the early years and KS1. Trained in the music education techniques of Kodály (specialist singing), Dalcroze (specialist movement) and Orff (specialist percussion instruments), she has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology (Open University) and a Master’s degree in Education (University of Cambridge). She runs a local community choir, the Bolton Warblers, and delivers the Sound Sense initiative aiming for “A choir in every care home” within local care and residential homes, supporting health and wellbeing through her community interest company.

She has represented the early years music community at the House of Commons, advocating for recognition for early years music educators, and her table of progressive music skills for under 7s features in her curriculum books.

Frances is the author of “Learning with Music: Games and Activities for the Early Years“ “Learning with Music: Games and Activities for the Early Years“, published by Routledge, August 2017.

Let’s go outside this autumn

Let’s go outside this autumn

As the weather gets cooler and the evenings draw in, we are reminded that it’s no longer summer. In the UK, we have four seasons, each with a very different climate. Of all the different times of the year, I think autumn is my favourite, not least because of the beautiful colourful trees and yummy fruits that are readily available! In addition, autumn can be a very special time with young children and there are lots of lovely activities we can do.

In the past, this time of year was referred to as ‘Harvest’, but as farming communities decreased and more and more people lived in towns, the term Harvest lost its significance and now predominantly refers to the process of reaping or harvesting the crops, and we use the word ‘autumn’, after the Latin ‘autumnus’, to describe the season. There are also a number of festivals and celebrations that take place in autumn and we may choose to acknowledge them in our settings, for example, All Saints Day (Christian), All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween), Thanksgiving (Canada and United States), and Sukkot (Jewish). So there is lots of scope for celebration!

For me, however, the best part about autumn is depicted in a cool, crisp morning walk, in dappled sunshine under trees with fiery leaves. The leaves of deciduous trees change colour from green to all shades of red, orange, yellow, gold and brown. Usually a leaf is green because of the levels of chlorophyll and as the sunlight hours shorten and the air cools in autumn, the chlorophyll begins to decrease and the leaf loses its green colour leaving us with a beautiful landscape. Part of teaching children about the world around them will include teaching them about growth, decay and changes over time. So talking with children about the changes they notice with autumn leaves is a really good introduction to this. One childminding team shared with me recently that during an outside session, a child found a tiny leaf which magically encapsulated all of the colours of decay. This tiny leaf sparked discussions about how leaves decompose and the cycle of life and death.

With children there are a number of things you can do during the autumn. In the past I have made up rhymes and songs to sing with the children using a familiar tune, and taught the children some actions. For example, (to the tune “Rock-A-Bye-Baby”):

“Red rosy apples on the treetop, When the wind blows the apples will rock, When autumn comes the leaves will fall, And down will come apples, leaves and all.”

Often the environment itself will be an invitation to play for many children, however, you may also want to extend their interest in all things autumn with a few of the ideas below. Most of the ideas are free and many are outside or bringing the outside in.

  • Go on a welly walk and find some muddy puddles to splash in
  • Play outside in the mud kitchen
    Visit a local woodland and make a den
  • Try apple bobbing
  • Teach the children some harvest songs like “Cauliflower’s fluffy”
  • Collect conkers or acorns and use them as counters
  • Sort leaves into different colours and shapes
  • Go on a colour hunt – offer the children colour paint swatches in autumn colours and encourage them to find something the same colour as their card
  • Collect as many different coloured leaves as you can – you could stick some double-sided tape to card for children to use as a collection base
  • Use a wax crayon to do some bark or leaf rubbings (most successful back in the setting after the walk, resting on a table)
  • Make an autumn leaf dream-catcher
  • Thread leaves onto a thin stick
  • Make some autumn-scented playdough with the children, using spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and mixed spice
  • Print using natural materials, leaves, twigs and stones
  • Make a natural paint brush by tying a feather or leaves onto a stick and then paint your own autumn picture. You could even crush some blackberries in a pot as your paint
  • Press pushpins into a pumpkin and encourage the children to arrange elastic bands around them to make different shapes
  • Why not brighten up the day and carve a smiley face into a pumpkin (children will need help with this)
  • Make a stick-man or stick-lady
  • Make an apple crumble or apple pie or another traditional autumn dish
  • Pick some wild blackberries (reminding the children never to eat anything unless a grown-up has said it is safe to eat)
  • Find a sycamore tree and throw the seeds into the air then watch them spin around
  • Create a leaf crown by attaching leaves to a card base or weaving leaves together


Going on an autumn walk is also the perfect time to share with the children about plants that can hurt us, like the prickles on brambles or a stinging nettle or thistle. While collecting conkers and acorns or picking blackberries, we can also talk about the importance of not eating seeds and berries unless an adult has told them that it’s safe to do so, and we can show children how we can wash fruit before we eat it. These lessons are much better learned outside where they naturally arise through what we experience with our senses.


Share a simple poem with the children and encourage them to find different ways of moving to the words…

Autumn leaves are falling down
Autumn leaves are falling down
Leaving us a golden gown.

So celebrate the changing seasons with the children and whatever you do this autumn, go and play outside!

About the author

Tamsin GTamsin Grimmer photo2rimmer is an experienced early years consultant and trainer and parent who is passionate about young children’s learning and development. She believes that all children deserve practitioners who are inspiring, dynamic, reflective and committed to improving on their current best. Tamsin particularly enjoys planning and delivering training and supporting early years practitioners and teachers to improve outcomes for young children.

Tamsin has written two books – Observing and Developing Schematic Behaviour in Young Children and School Readiness and the Characteristics of Effective Learning.

You can contact Tamsin via Twitter @tamsingrimmer, her Facebook pagewebsite or email info@tamsingrimmer.co.uk


Share a simple poem with the children and encourage them to find different ways of moving to the words…
Autumn leaves are falling down
Autumn leaves are falling down
Leaving us a golden gown.


Supporting an angry child in your setting

Supporting an angry child in your setting

All young children display extreme emotion from time to time. If you have a child in your setting that is repeatedly displaying angry behaviour, then it can be particularly scary, disruptive and stressful; both for that child and the other children around them. Here are some strategies to put in place for a child that may be struggling with their anger.

1.  Teach the child about emotions. Show them different feelings and help them to recognise these in their friends, book characters, and eventually in themselves. On this journey, it helps if you label their emotion for them – “I can see that you are angry”. A child needs to recognise their emotion before they are able to address it.

2.  Teach children to recognise the physical responses to being angry – again, another tool to helping them recognise and understand what is going on. Talk to them about how it actually feels to be angry – you become hot, your cheeks go red, your heart starts beating faster and harder and you might feel butterflies in your tummy. If a child is able to recognise these signs in their body, then they are on their way to being able to recognise their own anger and handle it appropriately.

3.  Separate the feeling from the behaviour – “it is OK to be angry, it is not OK to hit”. Help the child to understand that they are not wrong to experience the emotion and nobody is cross with them for feeling it, they just have to be careful how they act on it.

4.  Give the child a strategy. Work with the child (at a time that they are calm) to come up with a plan, that is right for them and your setting, for when they are feeling those physical responses to anger. It may be that they go to a room by themselves, hit a cushion, squeeze a sensory ball or spend time outside. Lots of children find sensory play such as bubbles or water-play very calming. They need the opportunity to work through their anger without making things worse by hurting someone or something.

5.  Verbalise your own feelings to demonstrate how you handle them. “That made me feel very cross so I’m going to take some time on my own to calm down”. Don’t forget that you are one of the child’s role models, therefore do your best to remain calm when dealing with both their anger and your own.

6.  Encourage them to talk. There will be a reason for their anger and hopefully, in time, you will be able to get to find out what it is and help them with it. It can help to use puppets or comic strips to encourage a child to talk about their feelings. It is very likely that the anger is a result of things happening outside of your setting but you can still help the child work through their feelings about it and, if necessary and appropriate, feedback to their carers. Remember – behaviour is communication.

Don’t forget that the child that is getting really angry is going to feel really scared and out of control at that time. Your ultimate goal is for that child to be able to come to you and tell you how they are feeling before it builds to an angry outburst. By remaining calm and showing understanding towards the way they are feeling, you should gradually be able to earn their trust and lessen the anger.


About the author

Gina SmithGina Smith is an experienced teacher with experience of teaching in both mainstream and special education. She is the creator of ‘Create Visual Aids’ – a business that provides both homes and education settings with bespoke visual resources. Gina recognises the fact that no two children are the same and therefore individuals are likely to need different resources. Create Visual Aids is dedicated to making visual symbols exactly how the individual needs them.



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