Scotland’s Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Marie Todd, launched a national ‘position statement’ last month where she talked about the benefits of outdoor play in terms of it “improving children’s health and wellbeing, building resilience and connecting with nature”.
Statistics from the annual Scottish Health Survey stated that only one third of children aged 5-15 reached the recommended level of at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day of the week in 2017 – a figure that dropped to 18 per cent for those aged 13-15. The NSPCC has also published information about the increasing number of calls they are receiving from children with mental health issues.
With these staggering statistics, it has never been more important to ensure that early learning and childcare settings look at their provision for outdoor play and learning opportunities for children and young people in their care. BB Training has invested heavily in training opportunities for early years professionals taking into account key documentation and best practice guidance from the Care Inspectorate’s My World Outdoors and Loose Parts Play and Education Scotland’s outdoor learning guidance for teachers and practitioners.
This is having a positive impact on outcomes for children in all of the settings we work with. Equipped with the knowledge and understanding of why outdoor learning improves outcomes for children, early years educators are ensuring children are participating in free flow play, open ended play, learning opportunities in their communities, accessing nearby woodland areas and by getting involved in community projects and charities. We feel this is supporting children to take part in active learning opportunities and have recognised the benefits this is having on children. Children are becoming responsible citizens, they are showing increasing confidence in their ability which in turn has improved their wellbeing and resilience. Children have been celebrating their own successes when climbing trees, expanding their own boundaries and taking responsibility for their own learning. Children are showing increasing life skills and are tackling more experiences than we have ever seen indoors. Children have been observed to have more connection with nature and are showing an interest in taking care of small animals and insects in their environments. This is also having an impact on how older children are supporting younger children in outdoor areas when climbing or attending to tasks that they initially find difficult to complete.
Outdoor play is having a significant impact on how children approach their learning, it is supporting them to create stimulating environments which promotes their imagination and creativity, they are developing problem-solving skills and showing increased skills in critical thinking and decision making. Children’s communication has improved and they are confidently choosing resources to enhance learning and take their learning to the next level. This is giving children a sense of freedom, independence, inner strength and self-discovery, they are showing enhanced connectedness with nature and have increased knowledge of environmental subjects that affect their communities and environments. Children’s self-esteem and confidence has improved which has had a positive impact on children’s behaviour and children are showing improved resilience when faced with conflict or difficult and demanding situations.
Early years educators have seen significant improvement in children’s approach to learning when taking part in outdoor experiences. They have noticed how outdoor play is supporting wellbeing for individual children and how taking part in outdoor learning has supported children to feel safe, take part in risk assessment, make healthy choices, take part in active learning, become more nurturing and more connected with nature, celebrate their achievements, show respect, become more responsible and become more included in activities, experiences and community involvement.
BB Training Academy recognise the Scottish Government’s ambition to make Scotland the best place for children and young people to grow up and we are passionate about improving outcomes for children. We will continue to support continuous professional development and share best practice with all early years educators to ensure the best possible outcomes for all children and young people in Scotland.