Developing outdoor learning at Rosebank Nursery

Rosebank Nursery is an indoor/outdoor setting so the children have constant access to our outdoor space. We are a large town nursery and have recently had a refurbishment extending both our indoor and outdoor space. Part of our nursery development plan over the last year or so was to develop outdoor learning in the setting. An EYP from our setting attended a Highland Council led outdoor learning course ‘Laying the trail’. Through this and other government guidelines such as Space to Grow, My World Outdoors and Realising the Ambition, as a team we have developed our outdoor space to be a child centred environment with a variety of open-ended play possibilities for the children. We use outdoor play theorists such as David Sobel and his 7 design principles to enhance and understand our practice and pedagogy.

Loose Parts Play

The children use a variety of loose parts within the setting, allowing them to balance, climb and build, allowing them to be as inventive as they want in their play. By scaffolding this play the children in our setting are able to confidently manage and assess their own risk.

The children love to play with the cars outside so we created tracks and bridges using planks of wood, old slides and tubes. The children were involved in sanding and painting the pieces of wood and setting up the track and ramps for the cars. They use this for all sorts of play activities; so although we have painted lines on some of these to look like roads it still remains open ended for the children to use however they choose.

Mud Pit

The children love to dig in the sand pit and in the nursery garden. However, they were starting to dig up our already sparse looking grassy area, so as practitioners we were aware of the benefits of big kinesthetic movements such as digging, they with the children’s help created a mud pit which was great fun to make. This supports development of the children’s gross motor skills building core strength, all contributing to pre-literacy skills. It has also created lots of fun messy play especially on wet days as you can see from the mudslides they created!

Sand Pit

Our sandpit provides the children with a wealth of learning opportunities. They love to build using real materials giving them a realistic understanding of the world around them. Mixing water and sand provide hours of play.

 Mud Kitchen

There’s never a dull moment in the Rosebank mud kitchen and cafe. The children use a variety of natural materials, sand, mud and water to create some fantastic delicacies such as “Green soup” from all these ingredients and also counted the “dumplings” to put into it, then added some sand for extra crunch!

Using tools

The children at Rosebank are always keen to get involved with the practitioner’s updating and maintaining the nursery garden. We try to fix things that are broken or find other uses for items no longer fit for their original purpose. This gives the children an understanding of the importance of upcycling and recycling. These aspects of nursery life also help them gain important life skills, while also being great for their gross and fine motor skill development. Activities like these help build resilience and can be very rewarding when a child masters a skill such as hammering a nail into a piece of wood.

Shelter and Nooks

The children use the shelter for a variety of self-directed play opportunities. We try to incorporate the children’s interests in this area. Most recently the children have been investigating bugs and birds, so we have boxes with relevant books and materials that can help with bird and bug hunting. We also have a reading chair and comfy cushions so they can shelter here from the elements without having to go inside.

Bugs and Birds

Our bug hotel, bird houses and bird feeders are placed throughout the setting. This allows practitioners to initiate lots of learning conversations to discuss the importance of biodiversity and animals in nature.

Water Play

The children have access to water throughout the garden for use in their play. They love to transport the water from the tap themselves and take the water to wherever their play scenario dictates. We have also set up a mixing area where the children can mix and create using natural materials provided and selected.

Adventure Play

The children in Rosebank nursery love to climb, run and jump, developing their gross motor skills and challenging themselves physically while learning through play. As practitioners we ensure there are appropriate age and stage structures and activities to enable the children to build on their skills. Space to run is also important throughout the outdoor area.

The children asked for slides so after sourcing a few redundant ones from locals we integrated them into the hills.

Planting and Composting

Some of us are keen gardeners in the nursery and are enjoying growing plants and vegetables. The children can plant and taste what we grow. We are just starting our journey into composting. We aim to demonstrate and learn about the importance of wasting less while looking after the environment.