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Outdoor area - keeping it 'real'?


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Hi all,

I had a discussion today with a teaching assistant at another school today about the outdoor area. She is trying to 'sort out' the outdoor area and had asked to borrow my Helen Bilton book. We got talking about how we always seem to be 'sorting out' the outdoor area and it has made me start to thing recently that if we are always trying to change it/maintain it then maybe it isn't working? I keep thinking about all the resources that are outside that are always needing replacing/sorting out/etc etc and whether there is a better way forward?

I've been reading the posts regarding natural or 'real' outdoor areas with interest and am starting to think about what this really means and how to develop it further.

We currently have natural things going on e.g. wild area, growing area, digging area, bark area, sensory garden as well as an explorers trolley which all work well and give the children some 'real' outdoor experiences. Where I always seem to struggle is when we take more 'indoor' type toys outdoors. Don't get me wrong, I allow many indoor toys to be taken outdoors if requested e.g. if it's a lovely day and they want to take their craft activities outdoors then that's great I am less keen now in attempting to always offer these 'indoor' experiences outdoors as basic resources. I am starting to thinking more 'real' about these experiences - if it's art/creativeness then more transient art with OUTDOOR materials or materials that will stand being outdoors. Not worrying over not having books outdoors ALL THE TIME - again, if the weather is good then it would be 'real' to go outside with a book, if it's not such a nice day this isn't a 'real' experience and I am starting to think about other 'reading' that could be offered that is not in the form of a book. (We already have signs, explorer sheets, info sheets etc - so extending 'reading' down this route, I suppose for a purpose!)

I love the outdoor kitchen ideas - e.g. not using indoor toys but outdoor materials. Outdoor 'small world' type resources are the larger type that will withstand being outdoors and not be lost in 2 seconds which upsets everyone. (Again, on a nice day if they request to take a mat outside with dinky cars then great!) I've started to think "would I do this with my children? with our toys at home? Is it a 'real' experience for the children. Of course, there's lots of things that we need to offer children that us as adults might not do e.g. painting in the rain! and I would continue to offer these things.

Sorry for rambling on but I've spent so many hours tidying/sorting/rearranging/buying storage/throwing broken things away that its really made me start to think!

Interested in your thoughts! I love outdoor learning but it has to WORK!

Green Hippo xxx

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I could'nt agree with you more. We have had this same discussion many times when 'indoor' toys have come outside and are really not up to it. We have just moved and are kind of making do with our area on a daily basis with big plans for next spring. I am following all these outdoor provision posts with interest. :1b

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We have permanent areas outside...mud kitchen, large reclaimed building area, quiet area, outdoor atelier, bike area, creative area. We leave this basic provision out all the time and just enhance it with things like, number cones, rocks to paint etc. We also have a shed that the children can access with resource boxes in.

I consider our area to be low maintenance but even this needs work to keep it useable. We don't plan set activities any more and we don't set up before the children arrive, as every time we have an idea the children do something different. So all adults on outdoor play support go out with a bank of things they could do, keeping in mind the children's interest, they suggest a few and then go wherever the children take it.

Our outdoor are is very real and as a result often looks messy but it is all used independently by the children, so I would argue, tidy/messy, if the children use it, then i'll leave it how it is.

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Our outdoor area is often messy too but I have fought hard against the powers that be who like things SUPER TIDY ALL THE TIME(!!!!)

 

Everything is accessible for the children to use when and if they want and how they want!

The stuff is stored in open tubs on the floor........ Many of the resources offer open ended play......

We don't have a big space but what we have we try to make the most of.

 

Currently we have an outdoor home corner, a cozy/quiet corner which can be a musical corner too if necessary, a mud kitchen area, a plastic little tikes house (donated) and lots of materials to construct with.

We are also growing the daffodils for Marie Curie cancer appeal.

 

The area isn't big enough for bikes, scooters etc but we use these on the main school playground.

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Since 2005 I've worked with no or few resources other than what nature offers when outside, which we are for about 3 hours every day. We are rural and I established our setting where there would be access to woodlands. Full EYFS provision with that was my starting point, then I've added things.

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Agree Agree!!!

I'm not worried about it being messy e.g. digging area etc. it's more picking up broken things and losing little toys.

As well as the above mentioned 'natural areas' we have a box of hats, a box of plastic baskets/carriers, large wooden blocks, crates and tyres, den materials, Asco 'Alti' kit, scooters and trikes, basketball net, outdoor chalkboard and whiteboard, large dinosaurs and animals, large vehicles and kitchen items (this includes some plastic food??), small greenhouse with painting pallets, brushes, chalks, water jugs and large paintbrushes, a P.E. trolley and a basket-shelf with pencils/crayons (these are always splitting with the dampness, so thinking of possible alternatives at the moment?) clipboards, hardback notebooks and paper.

Rufus - we don't set-up many outdoor activities now, unless it's a extra 'big art' type thing just add a few enhancements like yourself, if and when, appropriate and then play alongside children and follow their interests and needs in the moment. What resources boxes do you have for children to access?

Green hippo x

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Agree Agree!!!

I'm not worried about it being messy e.g. digging area etc. it's more picking up broken things and losing little toys.

As well as the above mentioned 'natural areas' we have a box of hats, a box of plastic baskets/carriers, large wooden blocks, crates and tyres, den materials, Asco 'Alti' kit, scooters and trikes, basketball net, outdoor chalkboard and whiteboard, large dinosaurs and animals, large vehicles and kitchen items (this includes some plastic food??), small greenhouse with painting pallets, brushes, chalks, water jugs and large paintbrushes, a P.E. trolley and a basket-shelf with pencils/crayons (these are always splitting with the dampness, so thinking of possible alternatives at the moment?) clipboards, hardback notebooks and paper.

Rufus - we don't set-up many outdoor activities now, unless it's a extra 'big art' type thing just add a few enhancements like yourself, if and when, appropriate and then play alongside children and follow their interests and needs in the moment. What resources boxes do you have for children to access?

Green hippo x

Den box, dressing up, picnic box, balls, rollers and paint brushes, containers, various small world, hats, scarves and pom poms. A few more but I can't recall them off hand

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Hi this is my first time on the forum. My outdoor area has been the subject of improvement for just over a year. Last Christmas I had a canopy fitted, as outdoors was not really used prior to this (I went back to EYFS last academic year). We do plan for outdoors but find the children get bored really easily. The whole discussion of taking indoors out fascinating and totally agree with trying to establish the 'real' outdoors. I find it so difficult to know how to resource it and what to put out to really motivate, enthuse and produce quality learning through play, however storage is an issue and having the resources for over 90 children. Up for any suggestions?? But will have a go at some of the ideas above.

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I would love to see some photos of peoples outside area if anyone would like to share!! Our old outdoor area worked really well for us, We had a large fenced grassed area that also included a large tunnel, a willow walkway and apple trees. To this we added a large sandpit with easy access to sandtoys. Dens, tents, water trays, dressing up clothes, large blocks etc, etc. Now we are in a very large boring tarmac playground!! Have to say at the moment it feels like a daunting task to make it into something special. Would love to hear from anyone who just has tarmac and to find out how they make it more natural.

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