I Don’t Want to Go Outside Today!

30th January 2023

Guest blog by: Nicolle Broderick, Early Years and Behavioural Specialist at Langley Hall Primary Academy 

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Have you ever encountered children who just do not want to be outside? Inside is nice and cosy, inside is predictable, inside is safe. The outdoor world is scary, big, noisy, and dirty! With cold weather and giant bugs, outside is a lot to take in.

If you can picture the children in your class or care, I bet you can clearly picture the ones who love being outdoors and the ones who would happily be busy inside all day long. Can you see a pattern? Can you see a clear division? You most likely can. Being outdoors has a lot to do with confidence. Confidence to try new things, experiment and make mistakes. It takes a lot of confidence to be able to make mistakes and learn from them without feeling sad or shame. In the classroom, it can be a more formal setting where ‘learning’ happens. We do phonics there, we write sentences there, we do our number bonds in there. It is predictable, safe and comfortable.

Some children can thrive in these types of environments of stability and that is why being outside is completely out of their comfort zone.

Wait, you called that outdoor learning?

There are 101 ways to engage children with outdoor learning the key is to fully understand what that actually looks like. Not all schools or settings are the same, have the same provision, space or budget! An outdoor space to learn can be a mud kitchen with a water tray attached, or it could be a school farm with animals to look after! No matter how big or small your space is you can create a space that is immersive and engaging to all children, yes, even little Suzie who loves to draw all day. As practitioners our best untapped resource is other practitioners. The ideas that we magpie off each other can be small or snowball into a u- turn on your learning environment and suddenly you’ve spent £1000 on the Cosy™ website for next day delivery.

If you can do this great, if you can’t don’t panic. You can contact your local farm, nature reserve or allotment site to see if they need volunteers or peoplepower.

You can turn volunteering into a learning experience for all children in your setting. You can reach out to your local school community and ask for preloved items to be renewed into making a construction shed, a loose parts area or a water wall.

Not a classroom with the roof off.

Once you have decided on what exactly you want to gain from outdoor learning and how feasible it is for you as a setting to create for your children. You then need to action it. I started off in early years with art tables outside with pen and paper. The shame. Where were the sticks? The mud? The fresh smell of flower petals?  You quickly learn that the messier the outcome the better!

Let’s think back to poor little Suzie who hates being messy, dirty and wants to stay in the warm. Think about how she is struggling to make that transition from having fun inside to making amazing learning memories outside.  She can be outside without getting messy, she can explore her garden, space, or farm without going too far out of her comfort zone. Can she relate to past and present experiences can you help her make a link with the natural world and her feelings?

An outdoor space to learn shouldn’t be a replication of an indoor classroom. It should allow children the freedom to roam and form similarities through their own observations and draw upon them to enhance their learning. We can steer them and encourage them through questioning but giving children the tools and confidence to do so is key.

It would be ‘easier’ to let Suzie to stay indoors and let her write her sounds and draw pictures over and over again. It would be a big tick is Literacy and EAD, but what about Managing self? The Natural World? Self Regulation? The big wide world of outdoor learning is out there folks and no matter what that might look like, a farm or a patch of 12×12 grass, you have the ability to create some amazing learning opportunities and a lot of memories to go with it.

Exciting News – An Outdoor Space to Learn feature area will be at Childcare & Education Expo London on the 3rd & 4th March. There will be live performances, environment created with resources, activities and ideas to take back to your setting and you might even meet a farm animal or two! Register for you free ticket to Childcare & Education Expo here.

Why attend Childcare & Education Expo?

Join over 2,500 like-minded individuals from the early years & primary sector who are dedicated to improving their practice and their education settings.

Attend educational seminars and panel discussions to credit your CPD

Meet the experts to have your questions answered

Receive fantastic onsite offers and discounts

Experience expert-led informative hands-on workshops

Network with peers and industry players

Pick up hundreds of new products, resources, ideas and services

And most of all, enjoy a great day out with your colleagues

100+ exhibitors | 1000s of industry players | 100s of experts