My daughter, ‘Little Moo’ started attending outdoor nursery shortly after starting reception class at school. Having attended weekly outdoor/forest school toddler sessions since the age of two, it was important to me that she continued to have this valuable regular experience and contact with the natural world. M attends school three days a week, and outdoor nursery for one day. Although she seems happy socially at school, enjoying the time with her new friends, she is usually ready for a break by the third day, and is itching to get to outdoor nursery. Watching her play freely in the woodland environment seems so natural to her, more in tune with her stage of development, what a four year old ‘should’ be doing.
At outdoor nursery M is free to play and explore in her own way and in her own time, she has a wonderful imagination and will happily play for hours without the aid of toys, making fairy houses out of moss and sticks, turning a tree in to a boat, or a puddle in to a lake. She can run, climb, relax, play, investigate, use a louder voice, all without restriction and without the need for adult guiding. Through her play M manages risk, problem solves, and practices self care, developing her resilience and sense of responsibility.
I am confident that M doesn’t miss out on any learning opportunities by being out of school, in fact I believe that she has the advantage of more, deeper, hands on learning which she wouldn’t get in a classroom. M has an advanced understanding of the natural world which has come from her first hand experience of playing and exploring outdoors. She has a clear knowledge of the changing seasons, growth and decay, and life cycles; can identify wildlife, bugs and trees, and could chat for hours about predators and prey! Any formal learning which is taught in school also naturally continues outside. She regularly practices her writing skills by using pieces of charcoal to show her friends how to write letters on logs, counts sticks, identifies words on signs around the park, and explores science through hands on exploration- all child led, child motivated, and enthusiastically approached.
At the end of a school day, M comes out happy but somewhat lethargic. At the end of an outdoor nursery day, M comes out full of energy, ‘bounce’, and invigorated! I am so happy that she has this wonderful opportunity in her early years, and will certainly continue to provide regular free play time outdoors throughout her childhood. Free play outdoors = a child’s natural state, the perfect and most natural way to grow, develop, and learn.