Learning outdoors

More than £860k to increase outdoor learning in the early years.

The number of hours nursery children spend outdoors is set to increase, Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Maree Todd, has announced. 

Inspiring Scotland will receive £862,550 to encourage and support greater use of outdoor learning in the early years. Actions they will take include:

  • Working with eight local authorities to deliver outdoor learning opportunities
  • Producing a ‘how to’ guide for practitioners, with practical advice on how to access outdoor spaces
  • Driving partnership working between councils, third sector and private companies in promoting outdoor learning
  • Helping organisations review the impact of outdoor learning when delivering the expansion to 1,140 hours of funded childcare

Ms Todd made the announcement during a visit to City of Edinburgh Council’s Lauriston Castle Forest Kindergarten.

She said:

“The significant expansion of funded early learning and childcare gives us the perfect opportunity to define the type of experience we want to offer our children during their early years. That is why we are committing more than £860,000 to increase the use of outdoor learning, to ensure it becomes a defining feature of childhood in Scotland.

“Outdoor learning not only improves mental wellbeing and health and fitness, it can make a huge difference to children’s confidence levels and their ability to risk assess while encouraging a lifelong love of the outdoors.

“By supporting our young people to go outside and play we are not only making sure their early years are as happy and healthy as possible we are also ensuring every child in Scotland gets the best possible start in life.”

Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood said:

“We know the benefits of outdoor learning, exercise and play for young children, in terms of their health and wellbeing and their physical and mental development. Playing, learning and having fun outdoors helps improve wellbeing and resilience, increases physical activity and allows children to use the natural world to develop curiosity and science skills.

“There is also a growing body of research that shows children with higher levels of active outdoor play have improved cognition, which can result in better academic performance and contribute to closing the attainment gap.”

Celia Tennant, Inspiring Scotland’s Chief Executive, said:

“Research clearly and consistently identifies outdoor play as vital to emotional, physical and mental health and well-being and critical to all aspects of childhood learning and development.

“We are delighted to be supporting Scottish Government to establish high-quality outdoor play as the essential catalyst for healthy childhood development and a fundamental part of growing up in Scotland.

“Our role will include supporting local authorities and social enterprises to develop and scale up outdoor nursery provision alongside supporting good practice to embed outdoor play-based childcare, helping to make playing outside in nature part of the way children in Scotland learn and develop from an early age.”


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