Early learning and childcare - Out to Play: guidance for practitioners supporting children with additional support needs - section 11

Supplementary guidance (section 11) should be used alongside the main Out to Play document to support the delivery of outdoor experiences for children in early learning and childcare (ELC) with additional support needs.

Planning For Inclusion

Right from the start, inclusion should be part of planning, reflective practice and reviews, allowing you to adapt and respond to the needs of individual children and families on an ongoing basis.

All children need support to help them learn and develop in environments that are caring, inclusive and fair. Planning for inclusion involves identifying and minimising barriers to playing and learning outdoors and promoting and sustaining high quality experiences for all children.

Out to Play provides detailed information on the key areas to think about when developing plans for outdoor play and learning. Below, we have highlighted further points to consider in relation to supporting children with additional support needs.


  • Is your planning rooted in the expectation that your setting will include children with additional support needs (some or all the time), and that children’s needs aren’t static?
  • Have you identified organisations and partners from whom you can seek guidance on general matters of inclusion and on specific issues or ideas related to supporting a child or children with additional support needs? (See Sources of information.)
  • Have you considered the journey to, and arrival at, your site from the point of view of families and children with additional support needs? How do you know your setting is accessible, inclusive and welcoming for all visitors?

Finding and creating the right outdoor space

  • Have you tried to understand the site from the perspective of children, including children with additional support needs? This can include participatory activities such as sensory mapping and walkabouts, observations of children at play and including them in reflecting on their experience of the outdoor space. (See Children’s views, experience and ideas)
  • Do your site plans (access, layout, infrastructure etc.) include consideration of children with additional support needs? (See Creating your space.)
  • Do your plans for monitoring and checking the site include consideration of specific needs, for example, accessibility and sensory needs? (See Using your space.)
  • Will you put in place systems to ensure that when barriers to outdoor play are identified, actions will be taken to address them? (Not all barriers can be entirely removed – creative solutions may be needed and bear in mind, children need varying levels of challenge to learn to manage them. Other barriers may relate to staff fears or concerns which should also be recognised and addressed) (See Staffing and practice.)
  • Who can help to ensure your site is as accessible and inclusive as possible? (See Sources of information.)

If any child has a mobility or sight impairment, sensory considerations are crucial. You should plan thoughtfully so that everyone is included, rather than taking separate measures to meet the needs of an excluded group. You should consider accessible pathways and manageable gradients for your service’s grounds. However, your areas need not be sterile – think about adding interest and sensory experience, with varying materials, for example. The public areas you visit should already be accessible but may pose challenges that need creative solutions.
(Care Inspectorate, 2016: 58)

Using your space

  • What playing and learning opportunities do you want your space to provide for children? (See Creating your space.)
  • Are there specific considerations to be made to meet the needs of a child or children with additional support needs? (For example, can they navigate the space, does it present challenges that are different from those for other children?) (See Using your space.)
  • Is information for children, parents, carers and other visitors in accessible formats, kept up-to-date, personalised and relevant to children’s needs and interests? (See Staffing and practice.)
  • Will children with additional support needs be able to access a full range of play types and follow their own curiosity and interests, at their own pace? (See Using your space.)

For a child with a global developmental delay who can struggle with transition out of the nursery base, we use a colourful stick decorated like a rainbow to support understanding and ease anxiety. We collected and decorated this special stick in a specific location in the woodland and now the child has associated the rainbow stick with that area of the woodland. He recognises that if we have brought out this stick, we are going to that area again. We have made this a fun and exciting resource and now many of the children remind us to take the rainbow stick on our adventure to the woodland space. (Stramash Outdoor Nursery)

Things To Think About

Have you considered how your values, ethos and practice support inclusion?

Building on your values, have you considered:

  • suitability of the outdoor space, resources and location?
  • adaptability and flexibility of your systems and practice?
  • accessibility to and within the outdoor space?


Email: outdoorelc@gov.scot

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