At Woodlands all rooms have a free-flow system where even the smallest of children crawling can freely move between the indoors and the outdoors. Plastic door curtain help to maintain the right temperature, whether it be the heating or the air-con. Each room leads onto a covered deck where children can access similar learning opportunities as they would inside. The decks lead onto large open plan gardens per room that all link in with each other.
The gardens are covered with astro-turf to ensure they are safe for play all year and the nursery provides all in one wet-weather protective clothing. The gardens may look messy as you walk round but we are firm believers in loose-parts play, offering the children a range of heuristic objects and the confidence and skills to take their learning and play in what ever direction they decide. Please read our information on loose-parts for more information. (available at the nursery).
We are fortunate to be based within 39 acres of woodlands that the children love to explore and we now have our own secure woodlands at the bottom of the site that has large dens, fire circle, storytelling areas, hammocks and slack line. There is a large wooden shelter and a toilet, and the children can continue their learning each week as they discover and play with their friends.
There are also clear health benefits associated with outdoor learning. Children need daily exercise, vigorous enough to get them out of breath with their hearts and lungs working hard. NHS guidelines say that children under 5 need three hours exercise a day and that it should be with a mixture of bone strengthening, muscle building and cardiovascular. At Woodlands, we ensure that through activities such as running, climbing, digging and swinging from branches, these needs are more than met every day.
The curriculum used by all schools and nurseries for children 0-5 years old is the Early Years Foundation Stage or the EYFS. It groups children's development and learning into seven areas:
The three prime areas are:
The four specific areas are:
We have already looked at the ways in which outdoor play can enhance children’s personal, emotional and physical development. Let's look at some other areas.
Children learn through negotiating plans with their friends, maybe to build a shelter for a hedgehog or working out whose turn it is first on the rope swing. They learn to co-operate through group games and enjoy the company of others as they play and relax.
Children are motivated to talk by stimulating experiences and a day in the woods gives the children plenty to talk about. At Woodlands we understand the value of these experiences. We create a relaxed, supportive environment in which the children feel safe and valued, and at every opportunity throughout the day we promote high-quality talk that develops the children's confidence and speaking and listening skills.
The gardens and wildwoods garden are full of open-ended resources that stimulate children's imaginations. For example, a stone could be buried pirate treasure, a plate for a pixie, food for bear, a wall for a castle, a car for a bug or many other things. Whereas resources such as a plastic car, are usually only used by children as a car. Rather than taking a whole array of resources and toys with us, the focus outdoors is on using what we find for imaginative, exploratory play and for creating and building.
Hands-on use of real objects is the cornerstone of developing mathematical understanding and as with all learning, engagement is the key. So the outdoors is the perfect place to develop those early maths skills, whether it be through counting conkers, pacing out distances, or finding shapes we recognise in the world around.
Just like any nursery, we sing songs, and listen to and tell stories every day – with the added bonus that much of the time we will be doing it under the trees. We ensure plenty of opportunities for the development of early literacy skills such as letter and word recognition. We make letters and words from natural objects on the forest floor or find sticks to write them in the mud or earth.
Where do we begin with this area? Learning about the flora and fauna, life cycles, the weather, the seasons, growth, habitats, insulation, light and dark, sound, forces....the list is endless. We are in nature's classroom and make the most of it.
Characteristics of effective learning
This part of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum describes children's attitudes to learning and 'how' they learn rather than 'what' they learn. If positive habits are formed in their early years, children will be able to apply these learning styles throughout their lives.