The Benefits of Outdoor Play
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Within this assignment I will explain the value of outdoor play experiences on children’s development then outline my settings current outdoor play provisions and examples of good practice within them. I will suggest areas for improvement in my settings outdoor play provision before moving onto outlining my setting’s current use of Welsh language within the outdoor area. I will then suggest areas for improvement in the use of Welsh language within the outdoor area including some activity ideas.
Outdoor play is a vital part of a child’s development and should be used within childcare settings and schools as much as possible. According to Nicole Therlin for www.ehow.com, in the article ‘The Importance of Outdoor Play in the Early Years’:
“Active outdoor play increases health and physical development by improving sensory development, reducing obesity and stimulating brain cells” (Nicole Therlin, www.ehow.com, 25/06/12)
She goes onto explain that children use all of their senses whilst outdoors as they are naturally curious and will explore new experiences using their senses, developing them through stimulation. Another reason that outdoor play is beneficial for children’s development is explained by Melanie J. Martin for www.ehow.com in the article ‘Why is Outdoor Play Important for Children’. She states that:
“…Many of the developmental tasks that children must achieve – exploring, risk taking, fine and gross motor development and the absorbtion of vast amounts of basic knowledge – can be most effectively learned through outdoor play.”
(Melanie J. Martin, www.ehow.com, 25/06/12)
She goes onto explain that children don’t only gain physical skills through outdoor play but they develop skills in lots of other areas and gain knowledge of mathematics, science, ecology, gardening, construction, vocabulary and the seasons and the weather. Children gain social skills through the use of outdoor play and an awareness of basic life skills such as crossing roads and looking after their own safety. According to Johnson, Christie and Wardle on the website www.communityplaythings.co.uk:
“Projects such as gardening, observing the weather…. and having a picnic can be – and should be – social activities.”
(Johnson, Christie and Wardle, www.communityplaythings.co.uk, 25/06/12) These kinds of activities encourage the children to work together and build friendships and communication skills also. Areas such as playhouses, dens and other garden structures encourage children to use their imaginations whilst playing outdoors. A playhouse could be used as a number of different shops or areas which children can act upon whilst inside them.
According to Rae Pica for www.brighthub.com in the article ‘Take it Outside’ several play theorists have also focussed on the importance of outdoor play to a child’s development. Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi both believed that nature and the outdoors had a positive effect on children’s development. Friedrich Froebel founded the Kindergarten, which translated means ‘garden for children’ and believed in teaching children about the outdoor environment and links between the natural environment, food and health. Two more theorists who believed in the importance of outdoor play to a child’s development were Margaret McMillan and Susan Issacs. Both women set up nurseries where outdoor activities were widely available and encouraged. (www.brighthub.co.uk, 25/06/12)
Within my setting there are a wide variety of activities held outside within two separate areas. There is a bark area with a tree house which includes a small climbing wall, wide steps, a large slide and a play house at the top. It also has a storage box built into the base and open areas underneath for the children to move through. We use this area with the children who are over two and encourage the children to push themselves to master the skills needed to use the apparatus safely. We also encourage the children to dig in the bark using spades and trowels to search for insects to collect in observation jars in order for the children to look more closely at different types of living creatures. There are also a number of small logs placed around for the children to line up and use as stepping stones to increase their balancing skills and to use as stools to sit on with their friends and enjoy snack times outside in the drier weather.
However within this area there is still room for improvement, the area is mainly used for physical activities and with some planning can be used for more imaginative play such as building dens and role play. These types of activities will build on the children’s social skills as well as their imaginations, through visualising a goal and working together to reach their goals whilst problem solving along the way. Another area of the garden is a large yard which is half covered with rubber matting. There are some apparatus around this area including a large caterpillar tunnel, a small slide, a number of tricycles, scooters and ride in cars as well as six tyres. Also in this area is a large hutch which houses the nursery’s two pet rabbits. There apparatus within this area is used frequently to improve the children’s physical development and the children are encouraged to assist the staff in feeding and maintaining of the pet rabbits. The tyres are used regularly for activities such as tyre races – where the children are encouraged to use their upper body strength to up-end the tyres and push them across the yard as far as possible.
They are also used as a hidey place when stacked up on top of each other encouraging the children to climb in and out of the stack of tyres. Bats, balls and Frisbees are readily available for the children to use to develop their throwing, catching and kicking skills, as well as hand-eye co-ordination, social skills and problem solving skills. Another activity which is encouraged is bubble play – developing the children’s early catching and hand-eye co-ordination skills and allowing the children to run around after the bubbles. Craft activities are regularly set up within this outdoor area. On sunny days water is used for the children to paint with and observe the sun evaporating the pictures. Chalks are also used for the children to use their early mark making and emergent writing skills on the paving slabs. Spray painting is another activity used in the outdoor area using small trigger spray bottles with watery paint inside. Large pieces of paper are stuck to the walls and fences for the children to observe the effects of the spray on the paper. There are also moveable sand and water trays for the children to use their manipulation and sensory skills within both the indoor and outdoor areas. During dry sunny weather paddling pools are set up for the children to enjoy getting wet and splashing in.
The children learn turn taking skills and social skills during this type of activity. Also during dry spells the parachute is used in this area to encourage listening skills and skills such as shaking, moving, taking turns, lifting and lowering the parachute. During dry weather, activities which would normally be set up inside are taken outside and set up for the children to experience classroom activities outside. The activities are only changed slightly allowing for more freedom outside. Improvements for this area could be made also. More traditional yard games can be used such as ‘What’s the time Mr. Wolf?’, ‘Ring-a-Roses’ and hopscotch, which do not require any props or toys and encourage the children to work co-operatively with their peers and staff, use and develop their listening skills, encourages turn taking and the learning of simple rhymes.
Another improvement which could be made to this area is that a lot of resources for activities are used and new resources and equipment are purchased for new activity ideas where natural and existing resources are available to be used in different ways. Creating games using natural resources will develop the children’s knowledge and understanding of nature and the environment in surrounding areas as well as encouraging the use of the children’s imagination skills, problem solving skills and social skills. Better communication between staff members regarding ideas and games which could be used in the outdoor area also needs to be improved. Each member of staff had different experiences of games and activities whilst growing up and these ideas could be implemented with the children within the setting to develop all areas of their development. The children not only enjoy the freedom of the outdoors within the setting but also have many opportunities to visit local areas when the weather is dry enough.
We regularly take the children for walks around the industrial estate the nursery is situated on to observe the different businesses situated there and to introduce road safety and recognition of different types of vehicles in the surrounding areas. We also try to walk to the local park as often as the weather allows not only to use the apparatus but to play group games on one of the large fields and short nature walks through the wooded areas. The children are encouraged to use their senses to observe things within the wooded area and identify signs of the different seasons to help develop their knowledge and understanding of the world. Frequent visits to local forestry’s and beaches are planned and the children are given opportunities within these to observe different nature areas and creatures found in them. There is also room for improvement within this also. More structured activities can be planned and prepared for trips to woodland areas such as bark rubbing pictures and treasure hunts for natural items.
Also more activities to support curriculum cymreig could be planned – including searching for particular flowers on walks, walks to local streets to look at different types of houses and trips to local heritage and nature areas. This would encourage the children’s sense of belonging and pride in being Welsh. Another improvement which could be made is that the children only go on trips to the park, beach and forestry when the weather is dry, and not during other weather conditions. The parent’s could be asked to provide their children with suitable clothing for the weather each day or the nursery could supply the children with wet weather overalls for the children to experience all weather conditions and observe the local areas during these. Within all of these outdoor experiences the use of Welsh vocabulary is used very little or not at all. Usually during many of these experiences the children are only spoken to using basic welsh commands and vocabulary such as ‘Dewch yma,’ ‘un, dau, tri, bant a ni,’ and ‘Eisteddwch’ as well as colours, shapes and weather condition using the medium of Welsh. There are plenty of activities used in the outdoor area which could be delivered bilingually and new activities could be implemented using only the Welsh language. Improvements to this should be made.
All the activities and resources already available in the outdoor area could be labelled verbally using the Welsh language as well as adding in new vocabulary, to do this scripts could be placed at each activity for staff who are not fluent in Welsh or only have limited knowledge of the Welsh language and will give the staff idea on which direction to steer the children’s learning or help the children remain focused on the activity. Simple yard games could be implemented not only using the English language but using Welsh vocabulary also. Many traditional rhymes are translated into welsh and can be taught to the children to promote their Welsh language development, such as ‘Cylch, o glych Rhosynnau’ and ‘Faint o’r gloch yw hi, Mr. Blaidd?’, these can also be introduced as scripts or even written on the fence, walls or floor using chalks for the staff to follow.
Whilst on walks vocabulary linked to the senses could be used about the things that the children can see, hear, smell, as well as labelling natural items found in the surrounding area. Simple nature cards can be used for this, a picture of an item can be printed onto a piece of paper along with the English and Welsh word for the children to find the item and place it on or match it up. This will aid the non Welsh speaking staff to implement the Welsh language as well as creating a game for the children to be involved with whilst out and about. Obstacle courses can be set up within one of the outdoor areas in the setting for the children to learn commands and positional language using the medium of Welsh as well as English. There are already plenty of both natural and manmade items which can be used for this with scripts to prompt all members of staff. In conclusion I feel there are plenty of opportunities for the children to develop their skills within the outdoor area already set up but there are also plenty of areas for improvement to encourage not only the children’s Welsh language development but all other areas of development also. Implementing these changes with benefit not only the children but the staff also as they will create a better atmosphere for the children to develop in, gain more skills to be moving onto school with and create better relationships and communication between staff members.
Geiriau Bach Notes EAGB 4008C (May-July 2012)
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