Out to Play - creating outdoor play experiences for children: practical guidance

Guidance and advice for early learning and childcare settings and practitioners on how to access outdoor spaces to create safe, nurturing and inspiring outdoor learning experiences.

Section 03: About This Guide

3.1 Who this guide is for

This document is a step-by-step guide providing practical advice on how to access outdoors spaces, including land or forest areas owned by local authorities, private landowners or national bodies (such as the Forestry Commission and Scottish Natural Heritage) to create safe, nurturing and inspiring outdoor learning experiences. The guide is intended to provide good practice examples of how to use outdoor play to promote high-quality learning experiences, and to support providers through the Care Inspectorate's registration process for outdoor provision.

With the expansion of Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) (set out in the Blueprint for 2020), comes an opportunity to transform the way childcare is delivered. All children should have high quality experiences as part of their provision and this guide focuses on that provision being made outdoors.

Things to think about

1. Are you simply looking to improve and increase outdoor play and learning experiences using your existing nursery as your base?

2. Are you looking to expand your existing service by using your existing outdoor space? Consider the size and quality of that outdoor space and whether it will enhance children's learning? Does it offer a natural environment? Is it freely available to children at all times?

3. Are you considering expanding your service by registering an outdoor space elsewhere? Will you continue to offer both services within the same management structure? Will children have the option to attend each service offering them both indoor and outdoor experiences?

4. Are you planning to provide a new service? Is it based outdoors? Have you established a demand in your local community for outdoor provision? Have you consulted with local parents?

This guide is aimed at:

  • those wishing to improve or increase their access to the outdoors
  • those who intend to set up a dispersed outdoor service (ie satellite) which shares the management structure with an existing early learning and childcare setting nearby and
  • those who intend to establish an outdoor setting with minimal built infrastructure and its own management, structure and registration.

While the guide is primarily aimed at early learning and childcare settings, much of it is relevant for those providing out-of-school care and play experiences in an outdoor environment.

The document highlights key areas to think about as you develop your plans and complements My World Outdoors and Space to Grow which share good practice and provide guidance setting out expectations regarding the provision of outdoor play.

How to use this guide?

This document provides guidance on all key practical issues while recognising that many users may only require advice with some aspects.

We have therefore divided the guide into four key sections:

  • Finding the right outdoor space
  • Creating your space
  • Using your space
  • Staffing

Each section begins with some questions for you to consider which link to relevant advice.

3.2 Different types of early learning and childcare settings

To date, four different types of approaches for the delivery of early learning and childcare have emerged and these are described briefly below. A fuller description of each delivery type can be found in the Care Inspectorate practice guidance on their Knowledge Hub.

Indoor setting – Traditional early learning and childcare setting using a building and outdoor space.

Indoor/outdoor setting – Early learning and childcare setting where Space to Grow has been implemented enabling up to 20% additional capacity.

Dispersed or satellite setting – Early learning and childcare setting where a satellite model is also used: accessible local park, woods, beach or other green space.

Outdoor setting – Early learning and childcare setting where the provision is outside requiring minimal infrastructure.

These are not the only ways children can experience outdoor early learning and childcare and the Care Inspectorate will continue to support and encourage innovative models of outdoor experiences and opportunities for children.



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