Bobbi is a wonderful advocate for promoting the wonders of the great outdoors with young children. Having discovered a love for working with children as an actor in children’s theatre, Bobbi decided to study for an MA in Early Years Education ‘I was really interested in how children were learning, to look into that pedagogy, of how you can go bigger and really enhance that experience of childhood. I fell in love with play and what it is to children’. Following her MA Bobbi began working in a Forest School nursery ‘I really loved that, it was wonderful seeing this freedom of play, this opportunity and all the things that can happen when you are outside rather than inside. Being outside in the elements, I really loved it’.
Bobbi is now working as a childminder and her ethos is very much influenced by Reggio Emilia and Montessori approaches. Bobbi is passionate about the benefits of children being able to have quality experiences outside, the children attending her setting do this daily, having opportunities to explore nearby woods. Age is no barrier, the babies are able to crawl freely and cruise against fallen tree branches and the toddlers are able to be autonomous, leading their own meaningful play ‘Even for the youngest children it’s a very special experience. It’s fantastic for crawling children’s motor development. If you’re crawling in the woods, it’s fantastic, what you are crawling over, what you can climb. It’s great, the cruising potential, negotiating logs, it’s lovely to watch’.
The benefits of being outside are many and varied and Bobbi explains how children can experience the changing seasons, use all of their senses and have the freedom to explore and learn about nature ‘They get to witness nature and the seasons. In spring it’s incredible, there’s things budding everywhere, it’s a massive learning opportunity. For the pre-verbal and really small children, like I work with, it’s right there in front of them, they can see the buds coming through, the changes of the leaves that they’re playing with, that the trees are different. They are right there, it’s not like being shown a picture, it’s using all the senses’. The children at Bobbi’s setting are able to visit the same place regularly and this enables them to witness the changes that happen through the seasons ‘there are bits that have been changing really beautifully and decaying too. There are bits of fallen trees that they were climbing on but now they’re really crumbly and they can see the decay happening, even if they don’t understand it in the way that older children or adults do, they are still seeing it and experiencing it’.
At the time of writing, the eldest child in Bobbi’s care is twenty months old and the youngest child she has taken outside to explore for themselves was ten months old. ‘Embrace the mess!’ is Bobbi’s advice to those wanting to experience the outdoors with their very young children. Bobbi appreciates that quality waterproofs can be expensive but feels they are invaluable in keeping little people warm and dry and able to explore freely ‘they’re warm and dry underneath which is what you need for them to be happy, you certainly don’t want them to have a bad experience’. Following on from this, Bobbi explains how special it can be to feel the weather and the elements, to experience getting wet in the rain ‘it is ok to get a bit wet, you get dry after, it’s a good mindset. You get to go out in the rain and the elements and you’re not teaching them that if it rains you go inside’. Bobbi acknowledges that taking young children outside and giving them the freedom to explore for themselves ‘does take some organisation and some effort but is definitely worth it’.
Bobbi’s enthusiasm for all things outdoors is infectious along with her passion for enabling the very youngest children to experience nature in all its glory, Bobbi loves ‘witnessing that deep involvement that you get to see and just being part of the experience with them. There is nothing like it, that involvement that you see and what sparks their interest, there is nothing that compares to that’. It is obvious that Bobbi feels privileged to share these moments with the children, listening to the birds sing and sharing the awe and wonder of nature with the children ‘seeing these discoveries that they have and seeing them laugh with glee’ and witnessing the children being ‘crazy with joy’.