All Good Clean Fun?
Preschool education is undergoing somewhat of a revolution, with many schools and playgroups trying to adopt a more Scandinavian approach to learning in the early years. Although there will always be a place for the home corner, playdough and storytime, the emphasis is subtly changing to more outdoors play. The theory is that children learn as much outdoors as they do inside, and getting them active will help combat the obesity epidemic.
Some schools have taken this concept to the extreme and don’t have any classrooms or play areas at all. Whatever the weather, the children play outside and all activities take place in the open air. Children can construct their own shelters for playing in and can climb trees, jump in puddles and make dens. More traditional schools also have an outdoor play whatever the weather policy, and allow children to go outside even in snow and rainy conditions.
Clothing and Footwear
Children playing in a forest or muddy garden are going to get mucky, however careful they are. Parents may be asked to provide good quality waterproofs and wellies, as well as warm clothing. Parents should carefully consider the type of things they buy for their children to go to playgroups in. Leave the tutus and impractical clothes for home, and choose brands such as American Outfitters clothing which is hardwearing. Clothes should be machine washable and easy to care for, and American Outfitters clothing also fulfills this criterion. Always send your child with a change of clothing should they get dirty or wet. Some schools will provide waterproofs for their pupils, and having all children wearing the same thing can make it easier for staff to keep an eye on them when outside.
There is no real reason why children can’t have storytime, play with playdough or do arts and crafts outside as well as at a table indoors, it just requires some extra planning from leaders and staff. Being outdoors also gives the opportunity for children to learn far more about trees and plants, and can get involved with growing their own vegetables and flowers. There are huge opportunities for exploring teamwork and introducing younger children to the ideas of playing together and working as a team to make a shelter or explore the woods.
Health, Safety and Hygiene
Many parents have concerns about the safety aspects of letting children run wild in the woods, but members of staff working in these sorts of schools are well trained in assessing the risks. Children are carefully supervised and are not allowed to do anything too risky. Wearing the correct equipment and clothing can also keep them safe and most schools will have excellent toilet and kitchen facilities close by. There is no escaping the fact that children will get dirty though, and this is perfectly healthy and normal. It might be a good idea for whoever does the laundry to invest in some good quality washing powder as the American outfitters’ clothing, jackets and boots will need regular washing!