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Sorry this is short notice - have a staff planning meeting tonight, and wanting some good (persuasive) ideas on how to encourage the staff to plan and carry out outdoor play. We are a Pre School with children aged two and a half to four yrs old, and we have one main room in a church hall. There is a door from our room to an enclosed garden (three steps down) - however, once outside, it is all grass!!!! has lots of small dips and uneven surface!!! lots of mole hills!! no shelter !!!(Great for adult sunbathing - but not for little ones during the hot days) - virtually impossible to ride trikes (although we do have them available) Cannot put up structures or leave anything out as it is part of the church garden. Would love to get the kiddies out more, but after a short while the grass is churned over, and the clothes and shoes are covered in mud, so when the children return inside they have to remove their shoes. As you can see, we need a convincing set of ideas / plans which would encourage the staff to use the outdoors - there's always a 'good excuse' to stay in!

Don't want to sound to negative - as the church gardener keeps the flower beds lovely and even let us grow some potatoes in a small patch last year - but its not the gardener that needs convincing!!!

Sorry - but am feeling a bit in the minority - and really want the ideas to come from the staff team as a whole. :o

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You could aways begin by explaining that ofsted are determined to see more learning through play in the outdoor environment!


Perhaps some great ideas for quick games etc to play outside?



I went on a learning through play course recently and they were encouraging us to do nearly everything we do inside - outside!


Also, what about the benefit to the children for the fresh air and space to 'let off steam' surely they understand that??


I'll keep thinking


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I'm based in a scout hall and we have an outside area, but it is not fenced so 1st your staff should feel lucky that they have this privalege. :o


I have had a constant battle with one of my staff because I ( as the owner) insist that the children go outdoors once a day ( minimum ). Ours go out for local walk or have supervised football, running games, parachute etc on the grassed area outside ( cul de sac no through traffic)


We have flurescent lighting in our hall and small windows, thus not very good "natural light". I believe this is paramount for childrens physical AND emotional wellbeing. Fresh air and daylight promotes positive feelings, positive behaviour and blows away the cobwebs. It does need some forthought, and this is where you need to motivate your staff to come up with ideas. Once my staff knew that I was not going to compromise on the rule of going out every day, they then started to come up with ideas of how to make it more stimulating / enjoyable / productive and most of all fun. Children don't feel the cold like we do, CHILDREN LOVE BEING OUTSIDE- EVERY BIT OF RESEARCH GIVES THIS CONCLUSION.


We have a spare bag of Wellies ( only £2 a pair in Asda's) for children who forget theirs. The children benefit from learning to change own clothes/shoes, and the less the staff "do for them" the quicker they develop these skills. It doesn't matter if it takes twice as long to get ready to go out / return, the children are learning practicable, independent skills.


I wish we had a garden for watching flowers grow, growing vegetables etc, The children can be obsorbed in play, searching for worms, mud pies, just living/playing with nature.

On hot days we use a mini gazebo from B&Q about £25, for shelter from the sun. Lots of water, art, gross motor activities, large planks of wood, bricks, rubber tyes etc.


I would ask staff to identify their objections and then ask them to think of ways around them, praise their problem solving skills and this will help them feel ownership of the "ethos" that outdoor play is good, if given some thought.


Good luck.




I hate to add that Ofsted are looking at ways we provide outdoor access because we should be wanting to do it for the children's benefit not because Ofsted says so.

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Sorry, forgot to mention, I have used old rubber outside doormats to reduce muddy areas of grassland. The grass can still grow, but the feet aren't swamped in mud. Large arpaulines laid out are good too for temporary, waterproof, ground coverings. Or maybe your local scouts / guides have got some old groundsheets.


just a little problem solving to start you off with....... :o




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hi myhen

we are in exactly the same position as you, church hall with grass area, fab in the summer we are out as much as possible, but impossible in the winter when wet its a bog mire and we just cannot get out :o

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I have spent the last year developing our outdoor curriculum, so it is not just running outside for fresh air.


I am lucky enough now to have keen, supportive staff who help me.


Roleplay is always good. We have had a farm shop, with real vegetables. Lots of learning in that.

The building site is always good.

Let them put on wellies, hard hats and high viz jakets. We give them tape measures and clip boards.Also have a set of large bricks(house brick size) in plastic which they transport in wheel barrows.

I can appreciate that things may get muddy though.


The usual obstacle course type activity is always popular.


I can sympathise, because it is hard to get staff out of the thinking that they are just outside to stand and supervise while the children run around.


If you can get them involved in planning, they may see the rewards.


This is probably not an option for you, but I am in a village hall. About five years ago I applied for a lottery grant to pave one third of our outside grassed area, so as well as the above they can ride bikes and go outside in all conditions.


The village hall use the paved area themselves for bar - b - ques etc, so they did not object to much.



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I don't want to hijack this thread - I think there have been some really good answers. I identify with myheroxanne because we had exactly the same situation until we moved premises about 2 years ago, although to be fair no-one but us really minded if we ruined the grass.


I'm fully committed to the outdoor curriculum but have still found it incredibly difficult to find the same quality, I suppose, of activities in the wintertime as at other times. I'm not sure all the staff are as committed. The children seem to be forever wanting to go inside for the toilet, for instance, & we've had a few firm objections [from them, not the parents] about being out when it's cold. Only a few, but siginificant. Then parents are concerned if their children are getting over these debilitating bugs.


I think outdoor play in wintertime needs a bit more looking into. Anyone fancy starting a thread, or is it just me? I just don't feel completely happy with things as they stand somehow; however well we plan it feels as though something's not quite there.


Peggy - can you not grow things in tubs?

Roxanne - I would suggest joining Early Years Outdoors because they will give you advice whatever the situation. I think it's still only £25 for the first year, but I could be wrong.

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Thanks all you lovely people - I too see the benefits of being outside with the children - hope staff can resolve any problems which might crop up as 'excuses' , have got one other member of staff who sees the plus points, and fortunately the 'Church' as our landlord have given us permission to go ahead to have part of the grassy area replaced with the covering which is child friendly found under the swings in parks etc, however, cost is astronomical - keep trying to get the committee to become more involved and apply for some kind of Grant for us. Anyway for now, keep your fingers crossed that we have a positive outcome from our planning meeting tonight, and would appreciate any further ideas.

:) THANKS :)

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just wondered how you got on with your staff meeting?



about your problem of churned up grass- I was going to suggest tarpaulin like peggy


another thing I have found useful (from my days of caravanning) are decking squares (B&Q about £5 each) they can be placed and replaced so can provide a variety of stepping stone activities


hope it all works out

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Alison

Finally managed to get round to letting you all know how the staff meeting went . . . after the initial 'hesitant pause' when bringing up the issue of 'outside play' we asked the question why we didn't go outdoors as often as we should?(met with the usual responses) and then asked for suggestions to overcome some of the reasons.

It wasn't too difficult - and as we were revamping our planning format at the same meeting, it actually became quite easy to slot in ideas. The day after the planning meeting - guess what - we were outside in the garden - a bit chilly but the kids loved it!! which speaks volumes. We are now asking parents to bring wellies on a daily basis and have now bought some spare wellies of our own for anyone who forgets. 2 staff members have brought their old boots to keep at Pre School!!!! I think we've turned the corner! Fingers crossed!

Thanks for all your ideas and interest. I'll keep you posted of any future developments . . .

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Aw are ina church hall - same boat as you - in the warmer months we are always outside and take the inside out where possible.


We do all activites outside, painting, glueing, bikes water, sand play etc.


Hate to mention OFSTED - but when they came last week and it was snowing quite badly - she asked why we weren't taking the children outside to experience the snow. Talked about lost opportutnities. Suggested we take small groups out whenever possible if only for 5 or ten minutes.


I have the same problem of motivated staff - in the summer they are quite happy to be outside but in the cold weather its a different story.




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I have the same problem we are in an enormous hall the size of 2 badminton courts. so we do let the children run around. our outside area is across the carpark its fenced and secure has a path all the way around it but we find that the hours it takes to get coats on and one parent has always not brought a coat, then no sooner do we get up there and a child wants the toilet which takes another member of staff 10 mins to do the run its a nightmare. also i have to get a gardener to cut the grass which was costing me £25 a week :o it just seems one problem after another. for what could be 10 mins at the most by the time we've actually got out there. and thats without the problem of motivating staff. we are not allowed to keep anything out as it gets taken and broken, and carrying equipment up there is also a problem as our large equipment is kept downstairs in the basement. I wish I could find a solution to make life easier. I have fond memories as a child making mud pies and playing with my worms but then I lived in the country and had access to the outdoors all the time. :DxD

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