The Outside classroom - Ogley Hay Nursery School

The Outside
At Ogley Hay Nursery Centre, we believe the outside classroom should be a
secure, interesting and stimulating environment in which young children learn with
enjoyment and challenge across all areas of learning.
In playing, children may behave in different ways. Sometimes their play will be
boisterous, sometimes they will describe and discuss what they are doing,
sometimes they will be quiet and reflective as they play.
To provide a stimulating outdoor environment.
To provide equipment and apparatus which allows opportunities for children
to use their imaginations, to plan, share, discuss, negotiate, take turns,
solve problems, initiate, construct and pretend - all these skills developing
together with physical exercise.
To provide experiences so outdoor play will be imaginative, realistic and
To listen to what children say as they play and make sure that appropriate
props are available.
To provide opportunities which will involve children using gross motor skills
and bodily co-ordination. This includes eye and hand/leg co-ordination activities such as steering and pedalling a bike, rolling, kicking, throwing,
catching and bouncing a ball, digging in the garden, sand or soil.
The Role of the practitioner
The role of the practitioner is crucial in:
planning and resourcing a challenging outdoor environment.
supporting children's learning through planned play activity.
extending and supporting children's spontaneous play.
extending and developing children's language and communication in their
The role of the learner
Through play, in a secure environment with effective adult support, children can:
explore, develop and represent learning experiences that help them make
sense of the world.
practise and build up ideas, concepts and skills.
learn how to control impulses and understand the need for rules.
be alone, be alongside others or co-operate as they talk or rehearse their
take risks and make mistakes.
think creatively and imaginatively.
communicate with others as they investigate or solve problems.
express fears or relive anxious experiences in controlled and safe
Safety considerations
Safety is not about never having an accident.
Assess the risk and reduce the level of injuries without reducing the value
of play.
Agree procedures as a staff and ensure children are aware of safety rules.
To develop confidence children need challenge and to be able to take some
Children need to be taught to carry equipment safely.
Possible outside learning
NB - There are cross-curricular links within all these activities.
Personal Social and Emotional Development - Learning Experiences
Opportunities to develop imaginative play situations.
Opportunities for sharing and co-operation.
These opportunities are explicit throughout these other areas of experiences.
Communication, Language and Literacy - Learning Experiences
Provide materials to draw the environment and activities taking place.
Role play and drama
Relate to earlier experiences e.g. to follow up a recent visit or to retell a
story e.g. 3 Billy Goats Gruff, Enormous Turnip etc.
Dressing-up clothes kept for outdoor play can be used for role-play.
Children could pretend to be fire-fighters, using a truck as an engine, a bell
as a siren, hats and jackets, with the climbing frame as the house or
building on a fire, use plastic piping as the water hose.
Imaginative games with bikes and trucks (as above)
Creating a garage, traffic lights, using bricks and blankets.
Recording sounds outside
Play back and re-recording.
Mathematical Development - Learning Experiences
Chalking - To measure children's height and length.
Making Patterns - Using chalk.
Shapes - Go on a shape hunt around the garden.
Measurement - Measure the playground using a piece of string or
Physical Development - Learning Experiences
Wheeled toys, cars, prams, bikes, etc.
Challenge the children to follow a precise path on the playground. Ask if
they can keep to the line with the front or leading wheel.
Encourage the children to set challenges for each other.
Arrange hoops or cones so that the bikes have to travel round or through
them without touching them.
Add road signs, zebra crossings etc.
Provide a small milk-bottle carrier containing washed empty milk cartons, so
that the rider becomes a milk deliverer.
Provide an old sack or hessian bag of used envelopes so the rider becomes a
postal worker.
Provide building blocks to make a petrol station, requiring the bike, scooter,
etc. to become a car.
Plastic cones with pipes attached become petrol pumps, and bikes can be
washed and 'serviced' if plastic tools are available.
Parking lanes can be drawn on the 'roadside'.
A garage for the 'car' can be made from equipment covered with an old
Put a cardboard box, large enough for one or two children to climb inside,
on it's side in the track to make a caravan.
Ball Games
Catch in a Circle
Paired throwing and catching
Bouncing races
Basketball nets
Provide large balls, small balls, soft balls etc.
Use a small football net
Catch pads and balls
Skittles and Hula Hoop
On grass - hopping, skipping, running, jumping, obstacle. Balancing races
with beanbags or small rubber hoops on heads.
Use tyres and planks - making bridges and see-saws.
"………………………Says" to move all over the playground or in one place.
Including directions, body shapes, body parts.
Climbing Frames
Balance by walking along a straight plank (if some children are worried by
this, consider fitting two planks side by side to give a wider platform
Balance using a plank sloping up and another sloping down.
Encourage agility and confidence by suggesting that children jump up or
down a plank which has a shallow incline.
Play a game where, at a certain signal, the child has to change direction
without losing balance.
Arrange planks and frames as a continuous obstacle course and set a
challenge such as: "Can you travel along without touching the ground?" Use
upturned milk-crates, blocks, tyres or nesting boxes.
Adapt to make a den (by throwing over a blanket), or become part of a
larger framework, such as a castle or a rocket, by providing props (cans,
tubes, building blocks, stepping boxes, etc.).
Plastic crates, tyres, old steering wheels and barrels all add to the
Lay them flat for the children to jump, hop or step into.
Creative Development - Learning Experiences
Tambourine Games
With the hoops - jumping in and out to tambourines. Clapping could also be
Traditional games
Hide and Seek, Tic - Treasure Trail - Hide the Tin - Action Songs.
Circle songs - Mulberry Bush, Farmers in his Den, In and Out the Windows,
Using water - bucket of water and large brushes.
Chalking pictures - chalking number with number rhymes. Chalking around
ourselves, our shadows.
Brickwork, tree trunks, play equipment.
Log picture making
Use logs to make pictures.
Knowledge and Understanding of the World - Learning Experiences
Bucket - spades - trays - digging and examining soil with magnifiers and
Looking for and caring for mini-beasts
In soil, walls, leaves, under logs and stones etc.
Caring for birds
Nut feeders and bird baths.
Weeding and Planting
Looking for decay.
Wind Games/Bubble Blowing
Making up giant bubble mixture.
Fly Kites
Commercial and children's own ones.
Make Windmills
Outdoor Washing Lines
Variety of materials (i.e. paper, material etc.) dipped in bucket and pegged
outside to dry - what dries first? (paper towel prints).
Parachutes - Paper planes - Balloons
Floating and Sinking
Materials collected in garden.
Observing weather conditions
Chalk representations.
Looking at the thermometer.
Around the playground.
Sand and Soil play
Buckets, spades and rakes, plastic flower pots (these encourage
observation as the dry sand falls through), old paint buckets, plastic
cooking utensils or metal ones which are safe and appropriate, such as a
frying pan, pudding bowls, mixing bowls, sieves, jelly moulds, mugs, patty
tins, foil plates and food trays.
A wooden plank placed across the sand pit can become a mixing table, a
serving table or a shop counter (for a pie shop), as well as a place for
measuring and pouring out which will not be trodden on.
Provide access to water for making dry sand wet, making 'cement', pouring
'tea' and so on. Encourage observation - Where does the water go?
Make footprints after walking in the wet sand and watch them dry.
A painted or covered cardboard box with a 'door' and 'rings' can be placed
on the plank to make a cooker.
Building roadways in the sand. Use dumper-trucks, tippers, ramps and
pieces of wood to make trackways. Plastic tubing can be buried as a gas or
water pips.
Set plastic bricks in the sand to become a pavement, fixed with a
sand/water mix.
Use half-drainpipe sections to lay out a 'canal' or 'river' system for toy
Make a landscape for model dinosaurs in the sand.
Clear the sand pit of toys and use a plank for balancing.
Use the plank for acting out rhymes, such as 'Five Little Monkeys Jumping
on the Bed'.
Use the plank as a bridge and play out 'The Three Billy Goats Gruff'.
Observe what happens to the plank when people move across it.
Present the children with a challenge. e.g. dig a hole or draw out a large
shape then tell the children it is a pond and they have to cross over without
getting wet.
Develop a mud pie area for children to experiment with mud.
Make a large construction area using re-cycled materials, especially if
space is limited inside.
The outside classroom
questions to ask
Are there opportunities for learning in all areas of the curriculum?
How is the available space used? Are there empty spaces? Is the wall space
used? Does some play interfere with other play?
What are the children really doing outside? - Observe them.
What are the adults really doing outside? - Observe them.
Is it safe but challenging?
Are there opportunities for children to play alone, in pairs, groups and to cooperate?
Can children be independent?
Are some children dominant in a certain area - e.g. bikes?
Can the area change each day or is it always the same?
Is there time for children to become involved in what they are doing?
What would the children like included?
Possible resources
Expensive equipment is not always necessary or even an option. It is possible to
create a rich and stimulating environment with a little imagination.
Milk crates
Traffic cones
Bread baskets
Cardboard boxes
Steering wheels
Small logs
Shopping bags (remove shoulder straps)
Old blankets
Jackets and tabards
Plastic tubing
Paint brushes
Paint rollers
Drawing boards
Writing materials
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