Do you take the children outside every day, whatever the weather - or do you say you offer every child the opportunity to go outside and then let the children make a decision based on how they are feeling during the day?
There is absolutely no expectation for childminders to keep their doors open throughout the day - in fact, if you think about it, free flow play when an adult is not always outside with the children might not be safe. It can also be very difficult to ensure educational outcomes for children if they are playing outside without adult supervision - so many childminders have a ‘one out, all out’ policy.
This can make things difficult again because some children might not want to go outside at the same time as others - so it is important to find a balance that works for you. Most childminders find that a daily ‘outside after nap time’ or ‘outside after morning snack’ expectation will usually motivate the children to see what is happening in the garden, especially if there are toys and games outside that they enjoy using.
Parents need to provide appropriate clothes of course and this can be a battle for some childminders. It can be helpful to keep old clothes and wellies for children to wear during outside play - it doesn’t matter if they get wet and dirty if they are old and children’s clothes will be protected. We always ask that children come dressed in play clothes and keep a set here in case they wanted to wear their best fairy dress or Superman costume to show us.
Before any outside planning is done, you should complete your risk assessment to take account of, for example -
• The play areas
• The flooring surfaces
• Standing water
• Trees, bushes and plants
• Toys and games
• The shed and other storage
• Weather conditions
• Children’s illnesses
• Clothing available
• Drink provision
• Fence and gate security
• Age and stage of development of each child - what does each child in the provision need in place to enable them to play safely outside?
Once you have the basics in place - a commitment to go outside, a risk assessment and appropriate clothing the next step is to think about what each child enjoys doing at the moment.
Planning outside play
The best and most important planning you will do in your provision is individual, based on each child’s likes, dislikes and current interests. This planning, often called ‘next steps’ will normally be in writing, but you do not need to write reams of information - a quick overview will be enough.
- Jane likes birds - so you put some binoculars and a bird spotting sheet outside for her
- Jack enjoys digging - you will set up the digging tools for him
- John loves doing rubbings - provide him with paper and rubbing crayons outside and show him how to rub the trees, leaves, floor, walls etc.
Alongside your individual planning, you will have some group planning / activity ideas for all the children. These will be based around your continuous provision resources - the toys and games you always have available for all the children to use. Of course, the children do not need everything out at once!
You might plan different experiences for them through the week, for example -
Creative experiences - July - week 1
• Monday - singing outside songs
• Tuesday - decorating CDs for a display
• Wednesday - drawing butterflies
• Thursday - dancing
• Friday - painting
Physical experiences - July - week 1
• Monday - bikes
• Tuesday - bats and balls
• Wednesday - obstacle course
• Thursday - hopscotch
• Friday - balancing beams
Outside play allows children to experience the weather and the changing seasons, so when you are planning the first thing to do is look outside...
• Wind - flying kites, running like the wind, making windmills; reading ‘The Windy Day’ by Anna Milbourne and learning the poem ‘The north wind doth blow’;
• Rain - catching raindrops, counting rain, making rain pictures in puddles; reading ‘Splosh’ by Mick Inkpen and acting out songs such as ‘Rain, rain go away’ and ‘Doctor Foster’;
• Sun - making sunshines with yellow paint, drying dolls clothes, watching water disappear; singing ‘The sun has got his hat on’ and other sunny day songs;
• Fog - making foggy day pictures, watching your breath, playing hide and seek;
• Cold - playing with ice in warm water, exercises and dance to keep warm;
• Snow - catching snowflakes and bubbles, cutting snowflakes out of circles of paper, reading ‘The Snowy Day’ by Anna Milbourne.
For more information about outside play planning, please see e-book 6 from Knutsford Childminding.