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Managing The Outside Environment


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Hi

Wonder if anyone can point me in the right direction into ways that they manage the outside area? We have 60 children in September split across 2 classrooms, a middle craft area and an outside area. Previously used there's been a band system, ie so many bands for each class (has it's negatives), complete free flow (again negatives).

Trying to come up with a system that allows child initiated play, plus adult guided time but also means that everyone gets outside provision and not just the more active children who manage to rush out their first!

I've not done reception for a while. Been in year 2 and managed my own nursery. So just want to get it right!

 

I'm sure that are lots of different fab ideas out there that I can mull over.

 

Thanks

 

Gem

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We are in a similar situation to you Gem in that we have 60 children from September attending various sessions and we have a new purpose built outdoor area. We have been trialling complete free flow but this is really not working, especially with the 2 year olds. Accidents have increased dramatically so we need a system too. So, I have no practical advice but will watch this with interest!

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We are in a similar situation to you Gem in that we have 60 children from September attending various sessions and we have a new purpose built outdoor area. We have been trialling complete free flow but this is really not working, especially with the 2 year olds. Accidents have increased dramatically so we need a system too. So, I have no practical advice but will watch this with interest!

 

Hi we are also in a similar position. In my FS unit we have had to resort to a band sysyem as we had a potential 56 children outside all at once, which we couldn't manage due to safety issues. However, this has really restricted those children who desperately want and need to be outdoors for thier learning! I will be looking carefully at the responses!

Edited by Anje
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I could be a negative Nancy and say why bother seeing as the latest review on the EYFS has not even mentioned the outdoors xD:( :( :( Blooming government they make my blood boil... sorry rant over! Hope you get the answers you are looking for :o

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We are only registered for 26, but we assign on a rota the staff to areas inside and outside with two members of staff who float to which ever area gets busy. We open access to outside 15 minutes after the session starts and after after the initial rush to get outside the children tend to settle equally inside and out.

 

We can be flexible as our outside areas are gated so we are able to close areas quickly to increase staff in another.

 

We open outside in all year round and only close if the rain is persistent. We have found that letting children access to the outside all the time leads to the setting to be much calmer.

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I treat outdoors as the bit of the classroom without a roof - not as a separate 'thing' - it's just another area to supervise. If more staff are needed then out they go.

 

Not bothered if EYFS review makes no ref to outdoor, we'll still use it in same way - children need free flow.

 

If you are following child initiated leads and your ratios are as they should be then it shouldn't be a problem to supervise any provision area, including outdoors.

 

We came a cropper because we were trying to stick rigidly to 'our' planning and this didn't work! We do certain things discretely -phonics / psrn inputs/shared reading etc, but we follow childrens interests and try to get the 'rote' things into heads in different ways - through initiatives such as daily picture and daily question - both ideas given to me from the fab EY advisors we have here in Bradford.

 

Good luck!

 

Jenni

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I have a similar issue with managing outdoor CIL time. I have worked extremely hard this year and now have set areas outside for the following, but sometimes feel too much is open to supervise it and get quality play. We tried planning boards whereby chn put their name tag against pictures of areas, but I spent most of my time looking for lost name cards.

 

sand area

water area

writing area

creative area/messy play

junk modelling

quiet area

music area

maths games area

climbing frame

digging area

stage area

conx area.

3 tuff spots for small world stuff or fine motor activities.

Then there is a space for physical stuff like bikes, hoops, skipping ropes etc.

 

I took photos of each and on our door want to put a red 'no entry' sign on those areas we won't open that day. The idea is that as chn come in they can see what will be open. We have 60 chn and 5 full time staff. Apart from isses about certain staff members shying away from going outside (!).... want to know how to organise so that enough areas are open for the chn to have choice, but few enough so that it is manageable and we get quality play with adult interaction. The chn do get choices about what goes into areas, so if we tell them that the construction area is open they tell us what they want out, such as large lego, wooden blocks, as well as logs etc that are always available.

 

Any ideas welcome.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Quinny,

Even though you're a nursery and I'm a childminder, we seem to be experiencing similar problems. I have tried free flow and it didn't work for me. I work with a childminding partner full time and we have 6 under 5's full time. I have a very large garden landscaped with ample raised beds, low level gravel area with stepping stones, higher level barked area, two separate large decks, a lawn and covered paved area. I also have considerable outdoor storage across all of the areas of garden although it does blend in rather seamlessly with the natural environment. (I do have to live here too!) Each container has a photo on the front showing the resources inside so that children can make choices. However, when left to choose what they want, they simply work their way through emptying all of the storage, leave it there and go and play with something else. Solution - offer 2 or 3 choices and then ONLY get those things out. More capable children will write down or draw what they would like to do and I take their choices and we vote - very democratic! Everything is still accessible but we are all more sensible about it. If an activity has really engaged the children then this will be planned for and extended for the following day too to try and achieve more learning outcomes. This may well over-ride planning I had already done for that week.

None of my spaces are specific to an activity so...if children want to use the hoist to lift water I will position it next to one of the rainwater butts and leave plenty of buckets around. However, if they want it to lift gravel, then I attach it to the garden arch in the gravel area. Similarly, if the children want to read books outdoors but it is raining, I will put the rugs, cushions, teddies and book boxes in the covered paved area but if they want to read in the sunshine whilst listening to flowing water then I will put low level comfy stools on the raised barked area next to the water fountain but beneath the shade of the trees. Basically, nothing is fixed and yet children know exactly where to get their resources and where to put them back. I would say that we spend about 90% of our day outdoors but perhaps that's because I love to be outdoors too.

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Hello

This is my first time putting up a post- hope it goes to the right place!

The FS where I was working up until very recently is similar to the one you describe - two classrooms which we opened up for the majority of the day and a big outside area for the use of the 60 children. The way in which we managed it was to have two members of staff outside, one supporting play and another working on a specific activity with a small group. This left the other two members of the team based inside, usually again with one supporting play and the other working with a small group. Apart from the two small groups, all of the children were able to choose their play and learning. If all/most of the children chose to go outside then staff would change where they were based. This generally worked very well and enabled the children to play where they wanted to play. We made sure that we rotated the sessions when staff were outside so that someone didn't end up outside all day - less of an issue in the summer than in the winter of course. Hope this is of use.

:o

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dont want to interrupt the discussion, but just to welcome Rachb to the forum, and making that first post.

 

Now back to the discussion...

 

Hi Mundia - thanks for the welcome

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Hello

This is my first time putting up a post- hope it goes to the right place!

The FS where I was working up until very recently is similar to the one you describe - two classrooms which we opened up for the majority of the day and a big outside area for the use of the 60 children. The way in which we managed it was to have two members of staff outside, one supporting play and another working on a specific activity with a small group. This left the other two members of the team based inside, usually again with one supporting play and the other working with a small group. Apart from the two small groups, all of the children were able to choose their play and learning. If all/most of the children chose to go outside then staff would change where they were based. This generally worked very well and enabled the children to play where they wanted to play. We made sure that we rotated the sessions when staff were outside so that someone didn't end up outside all day - less of an issue in the summer than in the winter of course. Hope this is of use.

:o

 

I agree with this post - the key to good outside play is what your staffing is and how it is deployed. There should be a minimum of two people outside once there are more than 8 or so outside - we rota outside supervision as part of the general planning.

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Welcome Rachb :o , certainly think free flow is paramount in following a child's interest, whether it be indoors or the outdoor environment.

The most trickiest part is the staffing and getting your ratios right.

We have thirty children at each session, always have two staff over 8 children outdoors and staff know it is their responsibility to ask for another person if required.

Have to say we make it work as a team, as we can see how beneficial it is for all the children.

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Its so hard isnt it we find problems with staffing and general quality of play, let alone trying to accomplish and an activity!

 

we have 4 staff 1 in each room (2 of them) and 1 staff in garden then the other floats- but we dont seem to be able to get anything done we hardly ever seem to be able to work with our key children as you might have 1 with you and another outside. Somone suggested putting planning boards in each room so we can all support each child- but even trying to get to the board is a nightmare!

Then as someone else here mentioned accidents increase Quality play seems to have suffered

We have free flow all morning maybe we need to have a bit more structire.

We tried something new yeserday while the 3 ear olds had a mini group time ad snack the 2 year olds went outside-then we swapped (half hour each) it was great and the children seemed so much happier and focused- at the end of the session we chat with the children the older group said they enjoyed today they made lots of comments -basically bottom line was they liked playing without the 2 year olds ruining their play ( not exact words as I cant mention names like they did!!)

But we didnt like rstricting the time play was avalable outside it just didnt seem right.

 

The other thing is if the staff freely move around and not fixed to one room noone seems to take responsibility for resourcing/ enhancing areas etc!

 

Oh I dont know!!

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Thanks for all the warm welcomes - feels really good to be part of this forum! : :o

 

It is hard isn't it sharonash - always seems so much going on and to cover. Your idea the other day about having separate group/use of outside times sounds good and obviously worked really well for the children so I don't think you should feel bad about restricting the time outside that each group of children experienced. Don't think there's anything wrong with doing this sometimes especially as the children's play and learning benefitted.

 

We would sometimes experience that problem when you want to work with/observe one of your key children - they invariably seem choose to go where you aren't! We'd flag it to a colleague that our child was in another place to where we were and then do a quick swap at a convenient time (if possible - which it isn't always I know). I was very lucky to work with the same team for three years and over time we got to know each other's signals/needs really well - it can take time though.

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We have complete free flow. I introduced a new system last year that work for us quite well - a bit like a band system, each child has a lolly pop stick with their picture on the top and some of the more popular areas of the classroom including the outdoors have green slots with how many children are allowed, where the children put their stick when they are in this area, for the outdoors there is also a waiting system where children can put their stick in a yellow holder to say that they are waiting for that activity and these children go next. Don't know if it would be any help to anyone else but it's been a life-saver for us.

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