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We are committed to offering outdoor learning at all stages from the early years through to secondary. Our Learning Outdoors Team support this initiative.

We know that being outdoors is vital for children’s health and wellbeing. It boosts physical activity and promotes happiness.

As a child I play outdoors every day and regularly explore a natural environment.

- The Scottish Government has enshrined children’s right to play outside every day in the Health and Social Care Standards.

We know the benefits of outdoor learning, exercise and play for children.

Playing, learning and having fun outdoors helps improve wellbeing and resilience, increased health through physical activity, provides children with the opportunity to develop a life-long appreciation of the natural world and has a positive impact on educational attainment.

- National Standard for Early Learning and Childcare, pages 23/24

Benefits of outdoor play and learning

Benefits of outdoor play and learning in early years are listed below:

  • fresh air, natural materials and areas for digging, growing and splashing in puddles can contribute to children’s development in ways that could never be achieved indoors
  • children flourish when playing outdoors in all weathers – feeling sun, wind, rain, snow and ice first hand is important as it connects us as human beings to the planet we live on
  • being in nature stimulates the senses and nurtures a sense of wonder and awe at the processes of life
  • outdoor environments can offer different surfaces, different levels, lots of natural features to explore, trees to climb and bushes and shrubs to hide and build dens in
  • different natural spaces can simultaneously ignite creativity and imagination whilst fostering a sense of wellbeing and calm

Learning for sustainability

Outdoor time lets children observe the changes of nature, the transformation of the elements and the interdependence of all living things, giving the child a deep sense of belonging, allowing them to feel part of a wonderful, ever changing world.

Movement and co-ordination

There is a direct link between movement and coordination development and the development of fine motor and concentration skills. Some children find it impossible to sit still for any length of time or process the fine motor skills and coordination required for writing before they are ready.

One of the best ways to help children develop is through providing daily opportunities for physical play outdoors.

How parents and carers can support outdoor play

You can support outdoor play by:

  • ensuring your child is wearing the right clothes for the weather:
    • layers are great, they can be added or removed to suit the conditions
    • a waterproof jacket and wellies are essential
    • waterproof trousers or an all-in-one suit are also useful
    • check with your establishment for specific recommendations
  • helping your child develop self-help skills by supporting them to learn how to put their outdoor clothes on independently.
  • bringing a hat and gloves and wear warm socks in the colder months.
  • using old clothes that are perfect for nursery, your child needs to feel they can get messy if they want to
  • having a change of clothes available when needed – check with your establishment on how this should be managed

If your child comes home a bit muddy or messy, ask them what they were doing. Try and encourage them to enjoy outdoor play and learning.

More information

Key documents

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