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I love outdoor play. As a year one teacher, my door was always open to the element all year round so that the children could access the equipment outside. We all wrapped up in coats and gloves and took lots of the learning outside. Being outdoors opens up so much for kids and it’s true that many children simply need to be outside where they can run and play. But I have to admit that sometimes I am not brave enough any more.
I know the benefits but I hate being cold. And sometimes it’s easier to go to the soft play centre instead. The kids still get to run about and I get to stay warm… Well, enough. I want to make changes this year to make sure the kids get outside every day once more. Even in the rain they are ridiculously happy to be outside! So I’ve been researching ways to enhance our outdoor play and to build up my courage to brave the elements all year round.
Remind myself why outdoor play is important…
- There are no TVs or computers out there so the kids can focus on their play rather than a screen.
- There is more chance the kids will run, jump or even skip- lessening the risks of being unfit and/ or overweight.
- Being outside exposes children to new sounds, sights, smells and even tastes.
- Being outside extends vocabulary (new plants, new people, new creatures…).
- Being outside challenges children to think in new ways- how can I cross this river? How many legs does a caterpillar have? What does this flower smell like? How fast can I run to the end of the garden? Who can climb the slide by themselves…
- Children can be as loud as they like.
- Children can run.
- Children can be as messy as they like.
- Research shows that being outside helps people to relax and smile more. I want this for my children.
Researching how I can enhance outdoor play
We already make good use of our gardens and we do get out there all year round, but I want to get out more. Last year the children and I worked hard to make our garden more friendly, with our mud kitchen and our den. This year, using the B&Q vouchers we won as part of the Home Serve competition, we plan to add some decking to one side of the garden so that we really can be out there all year round. At the moment, one half of our garden is like a swamp (which the kids love, but which also means outdoor play in the garden is restricted during much of the winter) and decking would make it a lot more accessible for us all. Alongside these plans I want to:
- Build a messy play station. I want all the materials and tools for outdoor play stacked neatly in a container that the kids can access themselves. I want a dedicated outdoor messy play area.
- Install new play equipment. We have a swing, see-saw and small slide but I’d like to invest in new, wooden pieces that will last a little longer. The kids love to climb so a frame would also be great.
- Create an outdoor reading area. This is something I’ve always wanted to do and I envisage using the decking for this.
- Create a vegetable patch. This is something I have always wanted to do and we dabbled a little last year when we planted our beans. This year I want to dedicate a space where the kids can learn more about plants and growing.
- Finish our water wall! We started this last summer and never finished it. The kids love water play and it’s so much better having it outside!
This will only work if myself and Ghostwriterdaddy are happy to be outside too. I have to admit that hating the cold is a massive reason why I sometimes feel reluctant to get out there. But I know that once I am there I am happy! So what to do?
- Invest in good quality warm and waterproof clothes! This is a big one. I love the stuff from NorthFace and think we need to invest in a few bits and bobs to survive the Northern weather up here!
- Umbrellas. Big ones. I have only ever had small ones that break in the wind, but I think the large golfer style umbrellas could actually be quite fun. Imagine the new sounds standing under one of those!
- Flower beds. I love gardening and I know that having a flowerbed to myself will get me out there a lot more. I love gardening with the kids, but I also love having my own projects. I think remembering that the outdoor play space belongs to us all is very important.
- Chairs. Yes, I know I’m supposed to run about etc, but remember that this list is for me. I want some decent chairs at last.
- Relax. I am guilty of often wanting to direct the play and sometimes this is reflected in the kids being unable to play without me. I am certain that our outdoor play will be a lot better if I relax, and allow the kids to choose their own tools and material for their play.