Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): early learning and childcare services

Non-statutory guidance to support the continued safe operation of ELC settings.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): early learning and childcare services
Outdoor spaces

Maximising use of outdoor spaces

Evidence suggests that outdoor environments can limit transmission, as well as more easily allowing for appropriate physical distancing between staff and between groups of children. Staff should consider how they can safely maximise the use of their outdoor space.

Given that the risks of transmission are much lower outdoors, ELC provision should maximise opportunities for outdoor play and experiences. Outdoor nurseries and childcare settings by their nature will already maximise time spent outdoors by children and staff.

If outdoor equipment is being used, settings should ensure that multiple groups of children do not use it simultaneously, as well as considering appropriate cleaning between groups of children using it. Staff should clean outdoor sandpit and mud kitchen equipment between use by different groups of children.

Staff should plan for children to enjoy active energetic play across the day and this may include making use of other areas near to the service. Within any public spaces staff should be aware at all times of the need to keep children distanced from any other children who are not part of the setting, and/or other adults who may be in the vicinity.

Staff should take the necessary precautions to protect children from the elements and this should include suitable clothing, head coverings and sunscreen. Advice on sun safety is available from the NHS.

Guidance to promote high quality learning and play experiences for children outdoors is available in the Care Inspectorate practice note, Early Learning and Childcare: Delivering High Quality Play and Learning Environments Outdoors.

Short local excursions which promote outdoor learning

Short local excursions which promote outdoor learning (such as a short visit to a local park or green space) can take place as long as these excursions are appropriately risk assessed. The appropriate size of any group travelling off site to undertake outdoor learning should also be considered.

Settings should exercise judgement as to what constitutes a short local outdoor excursion and what constitutes a more substantial day visit. More substantial day visits should be undertaken in line with the guidance set out in the section below.

Day visits

Day visits (i.e. visits which go beyond a local excursion and that do not include an overnight stay) can take place subject to the following conditions:


First published: 11 Aug 2021 Last updated: 11 Oct 2021 -