In recent years there has been a shift in thinking in the early childcare sector regarding the importance of outdoor play to children. In Letterkenny The Glen is Irelands first outdoors crèche facility, which has proven that it is possible to conduct the whole preschool session outdoors all year round even in poor weather conditions. It is now a model for many other settings and is inspiring them to extend their outdoor play areas and time. There is a shift away from a completely safety surfaced outdoor area and settings are moving towards incorporating more chances for children to take risks and experience climbing, different terrains, hidden areas and loose materials which they can transport and collect. For our setting the nicely surfaced back outdoor area is a long way from this vision and I would imagine in hind side the large amount of money that was spent o its present design should it be available today would be spent more creatively. We are a high Scope Preschool and listed amongst the benefits of outdoor play for babies and toddlers taken from the High/Scope curriculum (French and Murphy, 2005):
• Air temperature changes improve children’s ability to adapt to cold and heat. • Cool and colder air improves appetite and energises people of all ages. • Exercise and fresh air support children’s natural rhythms of sleep and wakefulness. • Cooler, outdoors air generally contains more moisture and is easier on the body’s airways and immune system than drier heated indoor air. • Outdoor play provides a relaxing alternative to crowded living conditions.
It is very obvious to me that children benefit a great deal from outdoor play and in Ireland today with concern rising over the high levels of obesity in young children and a decrease in the amount of time children spend outside I feel anything we as a setting can do to encourage the children in our...