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5 tips to get Early Years outdoors


At The Curiosity Approach, we look to embrace the great outdoors and the natural unfolding of a child. In this difficult time of a pandemic and children returning to schools and Early Years settings, we need to move forward beyond the stark classrooms and stripped out resources, to ensure their emotional well-being and mental health are supported and nurtured, as well as protecting their physical health too. 


Let's look to nature and history to provide us with a guide.

“In the early 20th century, open-air schools became fairly common in Northern Europe, originally designed to prevent and combat the widespread rise of tuberculosis that occurred in the period leading up to the Second World War.

Schools were built on the concept that exposure to fresh air, good ventilation and exposure to the outside were paramount!”.     

Children were no longer contained indoors where infections could spread rapidly. Classes spent their days outside with space, fresh air, nature & vitamin D.

This isn’t about ‘arguing’ WHEN but looking for SOLUTIONS to HOW!

Read this great article, all about the history of ‘Open-air’ schools

Outdoors is the best place for children to be and here Ken Robinson tells us 5 great reasons WHY:      


Outdoor play is essential for children's health and well-being, even playing with dirt and mud has its benefits. 


"Without exposure to everyday germs, which can be found in mud, children miss out on building a stronger, more robust immunity to sickness,” Dr Ryan Harvey from House Call Doctor explains.

We can’t anti-bac nature, washing hands is key!     



Let us use a common-sense approach when returning to our classrooms and remember that play is active. Hands-on learning:

“Little hands & fingers are made for touching exploring, prodding & pressing.
Little hands & fingers, poke, feel & caress.
Little hands & fingers stroke, hit, slap and swipe.
Little hands & fingers reach out, hold & point!
Little hands & fingers swop, share & carry!
Little hands & fingers are a child’s connection to their world.
To understand, to show love kindness & empathy. “

It’s sad to say that (for now) this virus is our new normality and we have to learn to adapt and live amongst it. This is not a heated debate about the best time to reopen schools or settings, or which resources to remove.  

It’s a moment of reflection and positivity in this time of worry, anxiety & turmoil.
We are all in the same storm but not in the same boat! It’s a moment to breathe out and remind ourselves of the beauty and REALITY of childhood.

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” - Albert Einstein


“Childhood is magical & we must cling onto what matters most.”


Here at The Curiosity Approach, we look to provide you with 5 simple solutions to help get outside: 

1.  Alfresco dining 

Mealtimes are an unhurried & social experience at Curiosity Approach settings. A conscious time to pause, breathe out & mindfully connect with children. 

If anything can come from these crazy times, let us look to new routines, rhythms & rituals & embed them in our day. 

Our pedagogy is a mindful approach which serves children with reverence & respect.


2. Alfresco sleeping

Sleeping outside has many benefits for young children, from drifting off to sleep to the sound of birds tweeting and trees swaying. To the dappled sunlight and the cool shaded area. Children who sleep outdoors drift off to sleep surrounded by nature and the fresh air.

Benefits of sleeping outdoors: 

  • Natural light exposure -         
    This resets the body clock and adjusts with circadian rhythms, and you produce more melatonin for a more restful sleep, unlike artificial light which interferes with sleep quality.
  • Increased immunity -
    Plants give off phytoncides to protect themselves which humans can benefit from lower blood pressure and other health boosters.
  • Better functioning of body and brain -
    Higher quality oxygen will improve the functioning of the brain and body for better productivity, mobility, recovery and more. Whereas stale inside air laden with carbon dioxide can lead to lethargy and a slower metabolism.
  • Reduced stress - 
    Just seeing trees has been proven to reduce stress levels, as listening to the sounds of nature and the outdoors.


 3. Make Dens, shelters and sunshades 

We need to get the children outside as much as possible, to create outdoor classrooms instead of confining children to desks inside.

Why not set up camp outside? Hire wedding marquees or purchase a large gazebo. Pop up gazebos are easy for putting down on windy days.

Are you lacking in funds? That's ok! dust sheets, duvet covers and saris will make a great temporary shelter from the sun.

As always you must remember your sun safety policy and recognise that these temporary shaded spaces will not protect children completely from UVA light and heat exhaustion. Ensure children are kept cool and hydrated at all times. Provide fresh cool drinking water and check children are actually drinking and not getting overheated. Hats and sun protection is a must, in line with your sun safety policy. 



4. Water Play 

Playing with water is a calming tranquil experience, especially when done outdoors. #mentalhealth

Let’s get outside and introduce authentic resources to ignite curiosity & intrigue.
Learning how things work and those characteristics of effective learning.


Hand washing and washing of resources policy must be followed as normal.


5.  PLAY - Follow the children's lead and embrace the day!  

Let's get outside. Never has it been more important to get our children outdoors, in the space and fresh air nature can offer. To allow them the freedom to explore and discover this amazing planet we live upon.  

Whether getting outside is running on an open field or pottering and tinkering with provocations and invitations to learning. Whether it is making dens or digging in the dirt. 

"Providing for the outdoor play needs of young children is a complex and challenging task. A variety of factors must be considered, including the various play needs of young children, supervision and safety.

However, because our children experience fewer and fewer opportunities to explore nature, run, roll, climb, and swing and because outdoor play is part of being a child, we must find a variety of ways to provide quality outdoor play experiences for children, infants through age eight years. This task is made even more important as our early childhood programmes focus more and more on teaching basic skills and early academics." - From Johnson, Christie & Wardle; Play, Development and Early Education, published by Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA. Copyright (c) 2005 by Pearson Education. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Here are just a few ideas to help remind us all that outdoor play is where we need to spend our days. 


"The best classroom and the richest cupboard is roofed only by the sky."  

- Margaret McMillan 











Stephanie Bennett

This article was written by Stephanie Bennett, One of the Co-founders of The Curiosity Approach, alongside Lyndsey Hellyn. We're more than just another consultancy company, together we want to impact on early years. To make a change to the educational system. To inspire practitioners to bring back curiosity, awe and wonder to childhood and to the lives of educators.

Lyndsey Hellyn

This article was written by Lyndsey Hellyn, One of the Co-founders of The Curiosity Approach, alongside Stephanie Bennett. We're more than just another consultancy company, together we want to impact on early years. To make a change to the educational system. To inspire practitioners to bring back curiosity, awe and wonder to childhood and to the lives of educators.

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