Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): fully outdoor childcare providers guidance

Guidance to support implementation of re-opening of fully outdoor nurseries regulated day care of children’s services.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): fully outdoor childcare providers guidance


This guidance has been developed to support a safe, reopening of fully outdoor regulated day care of children services and should be viewed alongside the Strategic Framework for Reopening Schools and ELC.

Its purpose is to:

  • provide clarity of expectation with regard to practical approaches to a safe re-opening of fully outdoor childcare provision; and
  • in so doing, promote broad national consistency whilst ensuring appropriate local flexibility for local authorities, private, voluntary and independent providers (PVI) and staff to adapt and adopt approaches that best suit their individual circumstances.

Definition of fully outdoor childcare

The definition of a fully outdoor childcare provider, as provided by the Care Inspectorate in Early Learning and Childcare: Delivering High Quality Play and Learning Environments Outdoors Practice Note is as follows:

Outdoor setting – this model of setting has developed over recent years and can sometimes be referred to as a forest nursery or kindergarten. In these settings children are outdoors all of the time except in extreme weather conditions.

Children and staff will have access to a sheltered area this could be a permanent or temporary structure. There may also be a meeting point, premises or a base camp used for the drop off and collection of children. These settings will have a comprehensive contingency plan which has been articulated and agreed with parents in the rare occasion where severe weather conditions prevent children from being outside.

This should not be confused with settings which provide outdoor experiences as part of their provision of early learning and childcare or school age childcare.

According to current Care Inspectorate registrations, as of May 2020, there are 26 registered fully outdoor nurseries and 1 fully outdoor out of school care setting operating in Scotland. Only those services listed on the Care Inspectorate HUB are considered fully outdoors.

This guidance should be read and applied in conjunction with the latest Health Protection Scotland guidance, the Strategic Framework for Reopening Schools and ELC and the framework document COVID19- a framework for decision making.

This guidance has been written to ensure consistency with  existing guidance on physical distancing for childcare and education settings where appropriate. Work to link this specific guidance with forthcoming guidance for wider ELC provision will be undertaken.

There are a number of published documents relating to regulated outdoor provision which describe appropriate outdoor practice under normal circumstances including; My World Outdoors and Out to Play as well as Health Protection Scotland’s hygiene requirements for outdoor nurseries. This guidance provides additional information specific to delivery during Covid-19 restrictions.