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.

Children’s Views, Experience and Ideas

Children’s views, experiences and ideas should be at the heart of outdoor provision. Daily practice creates opportunities for all children to feed into and directly influence the setting.

You can support the active involvement of children in your setting by:

  • taking plenty of time to get to know the children, allowing you to think through ways to support them
  • noting children’s communication needs and preferences
  • keeping language at the appropriate level for them and avoid giving long or complicated instructions
  • being flexible and creative with your approach and methods
  • offering a range of ways for children to share their views, experiences and ideas.

There are many methods to explore and make known children’s views, experiences and ideas. All methods should be carefully thought through to ensure they are as inclusive as possible from the outset. You might not get this right the first time, but the key is to try things out and adapt as necessary. Here are a few suggestions of different methods to try.

  • Observations – much can be learned from being alert to how the children interact with the environment, engage with routines and access different types of play.
  • Visual prompters – for example, using smiley and sad faces or thumbs up, thumbs down images to support children to show how they feel about a space or activity.
  • Visual and interactive methods such as Makaton, Floorbooks[2], Talking Mats, Mindmaps and annotated drawings.
  • Digital technology – for example, giving children cameras to photograph images of ‘things I like’, or using tablets for mark-making.
  • Walkabout – take a walk around your space guided by children. You could use pre-planned questions or be guided by the children’s ideas to explore the space from their perspective. Be sure to note their responses (verbal and non-verbal).
  • Sensory Mapping – create a map of the area you wish to focus on and explore it with the children using the senses. With the children, record feedback onto the map.
  • Transient art – be alert to children’s use of natural materials such as sticks, stones and mud to create models and representations of their ideas and experiences. Record these and use them as prompts for informal discussion and feedback.

Key learning has been for adults to have confidence to experiment, to move things around and involve children in making decisions. For example, although the contained space at first seemed ideal, a more relaxed atmosphere was created by allowing pupils the choice to move between spaces. What seems like a boring space, can turn out to be full of potential through the eyes and bodies of children.
(East Lothian Play Association)

Things To Think About

What opportunities does your setting offer children to share their views, experiences and ideas?

How could you adapt methods you currently use to make them more inclusive for children with additional support needs?


Email: outdoorelc@gov.scot

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