Nature and discovery

child in stream with Outlast blocks building dam

Outlast block play in the mud

Spring is here and children will start heading outdoors to enjoy the rain and sunshine. What other environment offers such opportunities for creativity – and such freedom to make a mess? With Outlast blocks and a bit of imagination the possibilities are endless! Watch this.

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little girl removing or returning carry crate to its shelf

Every moment matters

Much of what occurs in a child’s day may seem trivial or monotonous from an adult’s perspective: going out, coming in; jacket on, jacket off; choosing a toy, putting it away… However, because children live intensely “in the moment”, it is precisely within the context of these seemingly ordinary routines that learning happens.

 

As early years educators we need to find ways to capture and celebrate the regular rituals in a child’s day and “turn the ordinary into the extraordinary”. To get started, try these ideas from Dr. Sandra Duncan: The power of everyday moments.

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three children playing with outlast, kitchen role play

The value of outdoor play

“Not all children attend well-equipped nurseries with exciting and challenging outdoor areas...but all early years settings should be providing outside play opportunities regardless of their facilities,” writes Sue Durant in her book Outdoor Play.

 

“Children should enjoy learning and you can help them to develop that all-important disposition to learn by providing them with an environment which they can explore, modify and use themselves." Read more.

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seaside

Summer scavenging

I have been enjoying a beautiful book, I Love Forest School by Martin Pace, owner and director of Reflections Nursery. It's full of pictures and detailed observations of children's explorations at Forest School and (a new idea to me) Beach School.

If your children don't have those opportunities, can you bring Forest School to them? Summer offers chances to collect the natural materials, be they seashells or pine cones, that enhance construction, craft or role play areas. Children and staff can help gather these resources, which then provide a springboard for discussion about where they were found, what kind of tree the pine cone grew on, or what kind of animal lived in the shell.

Even without trips to the woods, your setting can develop what Martin Pace calls 'lively connections' between indoors and out.

Hear more from Martin Pace and link to his book here.

summer walk

Encouraging children's innate sense of curiosity

Olivia is fascinated by nature. At six months, she was watching leaves in the wind. At two, our walks came to a standstill every time she spotted an ant. At four, she has questions about everything we see. (Yesterday it was, "Why do worms like puddles?")

A child's innate curiosity is the basis for life-long learning. We can encourage it best by sharing their questions and fascination rather than knowing all the answers.

In the words of biologist Rachel Carson: "If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in."

P.S. For a thought-provoking summer read and some good ideas, have a look at Richard Louv's book Last Child in The Woods. Read about it here, available from Amazon UK

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