Managing Free flow in an Early Childhood setting

𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐝𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐟𝐫𝐞𝐞 𝐟𝐥𝐨𝐰? 🤔

We often get asked the question about staffing, and how adults supervise such an extensive garden and manage being inside and outdoor too ? How do you cope with the provision doors being constantly open and children able to move freely about?

It’s quite simple really.

The doors are open to outdoors and children choose where they spend their time!

We are responsive to the needs of the children. Fully observant and ready to adapt to the flow of play. We move where the children are and respond ‘in the moment’

▪️We don’t plan or offer planned activities whereby one member of the team is stuck at a single table calling children to them to participate. Every member of the team understands that through free play children will learn best and it’s NOT about our ideas, thinking or what’s been planned a week previously !

Instead we watch where children are in their play and adapt accordingly. There is No rota for staff getting outdoors !! How does it work then? Everyone is accountable for the safety and supervision of children. Everyone is ready and prepared. We talk, communicate, negotiate, support, collaborate and work as one big united team who see where the movement and flow of play is.

▪️Educators have appropriate clothing and bring changes of clothes incase they get wet, mucky or dirty. There is nothing worse than spending the remainder of the day in damp trousers because you got wet jumping in puddles outdoors.

▪️We give children the freedom and autonomy to play, move and navigate the space. They choose where they spend their time.

For us it’s cannot be about herding children as one big group and expecting them all to be outside for a set period of time!

▪️Quality teaching and learning happens a thousand times and more, during the session. Eg a child getting their coat and shoes on and off, making informed decisions and having the independence and autonomy to make choices.

Wellington boots are easily accessible on our boot rack, made from rescued pallets

▪️As the weather in the UK gets colder and doors to outdoors remain open for free flow, you’ll might be concerned about the temperature of indoors or the rising energy costs! How to keep the heat indoors ?

Have you considered using PVC strip blinds ? These are easily fitted above a door frame and keep the cold air out and warm air in and still allow free flow.

▪️Don’t have blinds? ( awww we’ll keep the door shut and children can ASK if they want to go out  )

Be very mindful of the impact and message a ‘closed’ door sends ! 

It creates a barrier to outdoors. It’s shut, closed, off limits and subliminally contains children indoors!

But, the children can ask to go outside ?

Really ?  Let’s truly Reflect on our actions reactions and those of the team.

▪️Are they truly responsive to children’s desires and urges to get outside OR do you/ they wait till there’s a group of children or discourage them getting outside at all !  Are WE subconsciously or even purposefully stopping the FLoW of play in its tracks?  Let’s turn the lens on our own practice. Are we meeting the needs of the child and do they have the opportunity to spend prolonged periods of time outdoors ?

▪️Teams have to primarily understand WHY outdoor play is so important to children’s physical mental health and wellbeing! WHY movement and PLAY are fundamental to brain development and all future learning!

▪️If adults don’t truly understand the importance of being outdoors ( regardless of the weather) then they won’t be advocates for play. Some individuals will be reluctant to move and get outside. Know WHY!

▪️We all have to raise high expectations and standards within our provision and practice, to work collectively and not in isolation. To be ‘on the bus’ understanding the values of our Early Years provision and to ensure these are demonstrated ’In ACTION’

▪️The garden is fully enclosed, boundaries are checked first thing and staff are present, connected and observant !

▪️Staff engage,play and join the children in sustained shared thinking whilst still aware, observant of the areas and children around them.

▪️They are NoT pre occupied by paperwork, documentation, a expectation to complete a set quota of observations complete.

▪️They are most certainly NOT pacing and patrolling like prison guards or standing gassing and chatting with a colleague about what they watched on Netflix last night or what was for last nights tea #justsaying

▪️Educators are present, engaged and understand the expectation upon them to observe, play, engage and interact ( without be intrusive) to recognise and respond to play cues and meet the needs of the children

Whether indoors or outdoors! We respond to the needs, ideas and urges of the children.

▪️Final note - we recognise as childminders who work solo, a free flow system isn’t possible.

We also recognise that some Early Years provisions are on multi levels and don’t have direct access to outdoors.

We understand and recognise there are challenges to allowing freedom to outdoors.

This post is about managing a freeflow environment if you are lucky enough, privileged enough to have one!

We hope it helps?

Here are some images you might enjoy showcasing our outdoors 

We use large tractor tyres to create sand pits and smaller tyres are used as planters 

We have an extensive area designated to a sensory kitchen. The use of repurposed pallets and recycled materials means we promote sustainability and move beyond plastic toys and equipment. 

Nothing has to be expensive. Through budget friendly ideas, we create space and places that offer freedom to play. 

Using shower curtains, big sheets of paper and old picture frames, children can make marks on a big scale. 

Educators offer up invitations and provocations to play and learn. setting up the outdoor play space in readiness for the children.

Want to know more?

▪️We have some CPD training on getting staff outdoors, you might like . It’s all about helping fellow educators and your whole team to recognise the importance of outdoor play. Do you have some colleagues who are reluctant to get outside? Do you have some staff members who’ll do anything OTHER than being outdoors? We can help. We have a one hour ‘TEAM GATHERING” entitled getting staff outdoors and the reflective pre recorded session will help educators understand WHY outdoor play is imperative and helping them reflect on their own mindset and limiting beliefs. Need us to help you change mindsets and get everyone working together? 

Join our team gathering here https://the-curiosity-approach...

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