Outdoors Case Studies

Visitors to the Happy Dayz pre-school may wonder where the children are when they enter the building. The sounds of children playing and learning can be heard but there may be no sign of them in the two rooms. However if you step outside there is a wealth of learning taking place with engaged children and adults in an inspiring and exciting outdoor environment.

Happy Dayz Nursery is situated in the Harry Crook Youth Activities Centre in Fishponds. The Preschool has two spacious play rooms where they provide a variety of activities and fun play, along with fully equipped kitchen facilities, communal areas and disabled toilets. 

The outdoor space presented many challenges to the practitioners as it was a big concrete area with limited possibilities. Children just wanted to charge around and run, there were many collisions and they seemed to be on top of each other all the time. The main emphasis was on large physical play and they were less interested in other activities such as exploring sand and water. At the back of the outdoor environment was a steep hill of brambles, a completely unusable space. The pre-school managers were successful in obtaining this space for development and straight away could see the possibilities. They drew up plans and obtained estimates and applied for Capital Grant funding. Vanessa and Julie were so excited when they heard that their application for funding had been successful and that they could now put their plans into action.

Everyone involved with the setting put ideas into the plan. There were some limitations to the design, due to the large slope. The nature of the site allowed natural tiers so there is now a range of interest on each level. Over the summer the area was cleared and landscaped. The most amazing addition was the lodge, a large wooden building which is used for storytelling activities and has a quiet cosy area. There is also a space for loose parts play. Once the basic development had taken place the team had to decide how to add to the canvas to provide active learning. Everyone has been involved in taking the ideas forward. Initially the practitioners observed how the children used the space which gave them information on what resources they needed to get.

There are now fewer children in each area outside due to the increased space enabling different interests to develop. An interest in nature has been sparked with all children. Planting can take place on a large scale rather than in pots. The children have their own digging area and at the top of the garden some rabbits. This has initiated more opportunities for Understanding of the World. Children are learning how to care for the rabbits Cassey and Matilda.

Vanessa and Julie feel that the main benefits to the children are the rich communication and language possibilities. Practitioners have completed the Learning Language and Loving It course so are able to observe and identify quality interactions. They have noticed that quiet children are now talking more. An added benefit is that children and parents are talking more at home about what goes on in the pre-school

In terms of physical development children are learning new skills, for example climbing the steps that take them up to the different tiers, thinking about safety and caring for others. They are pushing their own limits, risk assessing, balancing and jumping. Most importantly children are getting a lot of fresh air every day which has its own benefits of giving them a sense of well-being and providing for their holistic development.

Vanessa and Julie say the biggest impacts for the setting have been:

  • Language, thinking, active learning
  • Children developing their own interests
  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development
  • Learning through play and covering more Characteristics of Effective Learning
  • Taking risks and pushing limits

The process continues through Bristol Standard targets and next steps for the setting include Forest training and further developing the new outdoor space.