Outdoors is generally one of my favourite places to be, the other day I told the people I live with I was going out for a walk, they said “good luck with that, it’s about to chuck it down” I just shrugged my shoulders and off I went, and just like they predicted, it did indeed chuck it down.
When it comes to the varying displays of weather we get in the UK, this is the outlook of the outdoors I get when I’m set to play and we get the sunshine, wind and rain all in the same day.
One of the ways we plan activities, both indoors and outdoors, is to base experiences on the children’s current interests. For example, for the first couple of days in the week, a child came in with her Lightening McQueen dress up outfit. When she put it on a staff member proceeded to tell how she looked like a mechanic. I asked the child if she wanted to help me set up a mechanics workshop outside.
Outside we went and walked into the blank space of the reception area where I asked her, “Ok, what might we need for a mechanics?” After giving this much thought she instructed me as what resources she wanted and where they needed to go, I gave some suggestions like “what could we use fix broken down bikes?” or “We might need to write people’s names down somewhere” But mostly she led me on a quest to make the best mechanics any nursery did see, and that we did.
It wasn’t anything fancy looking, you could do this at home, add a box or milk crate with some plastic tools (or even some blocks to act as tools) and a bike and you have yourselves your very own garden mechanics.
When the rest of the children joined us outside in reception, of course, they went straight for the bikes and did endless loops of the pavement. I started to play by myself by grabbing a bike and taking it up the ramp and began to “fix” it, some of the older children began to get curious as to what I was doing and wanted to join in. One girl said “I don’t want to be a bike rider now, I want to fix them!” and she graciously gave up her bike to another child.
The children started to come up with stories and situations on how their bikes became broken. Their stories were better than I ever could have come up with, one ranging from sleeping in their car when the door fell off, to one car slipping in the snow.
They found water bottles from I don’t know where to spray on the wheels to make sure there wasn’t any mud on them. One child saw that our make-shift bike ramps were getting in the way of other bike riders so suggested we move them out of the way against the fence until we actually needed to use them, what a great idea!
Soon the under 2’s joined us, one knelt down to copy a staff member drawing on the paper and clipboards, another just enjoyed turning and watching the bike wheels go round and round after we had turned them upside down on the crates.
This wasn’t an activity that I had planned on doing when I arrived at nursery for the day, but sometimes it’s best to just let a child ‘go with it.’ They developed their problem-solving and reasoning skills, they shared their imaginative stories with each other, and they even worked on their early writing skills, and to think it all began with a Lightening McQueen outfit.
Thursday, the heavens have opened and now we have soggy grass, wet slides and a few puddles. Now I’m not a huge fan of Peppa Pig (I’m being mild in my feelings here) but one thing she does get right, is the love of muddy puddles. There is something uniquely special about watching a child having the time of their lives by simply jumping in a puddle and a plus for parents… it’s free!
The puddles that had accumulated in the garden just weren’t cutting it for me, I’m a go big or go home kinda girl so I knew we could do better. Just on the other side of the fence at the top of the garden is a huge puddle that would make Peppa herself proud, we got rain trousers and welly boots on and off we toddled holding hands in pairs to cross the car park to our very own, exclusive lake sized puddle.It’s a shame that pictures don’t come with noises because the squeals of pure joy and laughter are what made the experience so much more fun.
I’d gone to sit on the wall with a child who had unfortunately slipped and sat straight in the middle of the puddle, while we watched the others we saw a line begin to form, a child with prime minister leadership like qualities, was instructing the children that a race was about to start and they had better get in line if they wanted to join in. The children lined up, heels touching the curb as per their instructions, and waited until a child shouted: “ready, steady, go!” At the ‘finish line,’ they were presented with an invisible trophy and a hearty well done. I went to join in with the little girl who had a taken a tumble, we held hands and put our game faces on ready for a win, you’d think with being an adult with longer legs that should put me at an advantage, but nope! Much shorter children legitimately won the race. Another little girl took my other hand and said: “Come on Sarah, I’ll hold your hand and show you how to win.” I’m still currently trying to figure out how to process that.
When the races died down, one of the children wanted to go for a ‘Bear Hunt’ Great idea, considering it’s one of my all time favourite children’s stories and I know the words off by heart, the only problem was I only had two hands and a whole group of children wishing I was an octopus. They divided themselves up into pairs and away we went, going through thick oozy mud and swishy swashy grass.
There was one child who had yet to properly join in with the races, splashing or the story, but as we came back to the puddle, there I saw her and Bev throwing stones into the water and watching the ripples. This immediately took Bev back to her own childhood of throwing stones in the water and made me wish again that I could skim stones. (if any parents have this skill please feel free to give me tips) Forgotten was the story, and now it was all about finding the right type of rock to make the best splash and ripple. We threw from different heights, we stood at different distances and talked about how to keep each other safe whilst throwing stones. Again the children took charge and what started as simple puddle splashing ended up flowing from one learning experience to the next with little ‘teaching’ involving from either me or Bev.
These two activities show you how rich an experience the outdoors can really be and how simple it is to do. The children developed a whole range of skills that would be unrecognisable to most people unless you’ve read up on your Early Years Curriculum and will stay with them through their adult lives (remember the child with prime minister like leadership qualities?) It doesn’t have to cost the earth and most of the time you can make something out of what you already have laying around the house.
I hope my post has inspired you to get outdoors and embrace our great British weather issues, and even have some fun in the rain as well as the sunshine.
Thanks for reading, Sarah Unwin.