How do I convince 26 sets of parents every year that they should allow me to take their little darlings outside every day no matter what the weather?
Well, a big part of it, is precedence. We have now been going outside for the first hour every morning for the past 6 years, so many of the parents have been through the nursery already with at least one other older child & they know that we really do mean it. They have also seen that their child is happy & safe outside & most importantly that we provide appropriate clothing for them all.
I have had past parents who were paramedics who were adamant that the reason their child was so healthy was because he was outside for an hour every morning at nursery. It was brilliant to have them spread the word amongst the other parents.
We are now in the position where some people are starting to choose our setting BECAUSE of the outdoor play approach.
However, not all parents come with any prior knowledge of our setting & because we are an integrated school, have chosen us for this reason. Therefore it is up to me to make them very aware from the first contact that we will be going outside every day.
We usually have an open afternoon for prospective parents & even at this early stage before applications have been submitted I make everyone aware of our outdoor play approach, I show them sets of our 'rain gear' & our outside area so they can see the welly stand etc. I haven't yet come across any parent who has said, 'Oh no I don't want my child going outside every day'.
When those who have been successful in their applications come along for the parent information evening in June, it is again stressed to them how we will be spending the first hour of every day outside. Now that I have this blog I can direct the parents to it & they can see for themselves exactly what things their child will get up to when in my class - this has proved to be invaluable as a way of forewarning parents.
When the children are settling in, it is done in 2 small groups over a month, where each group of 13 is only in for 2 hours each day. From the 3rd or 4th day we start going outside first thing. This way both parents & children can get used to the whole rhythm of the start to the day almost immediately. It does take a few days for the children to be able to walk through the classroom & go outside without wanting to explore further inside but usually after a week or two it is second nature to them. By starting off as we mean to continue it also allows us to show the parents that we really will be outside no matter what. It is always amusing the first really wet, dark morning to overhear the odd parent saying 'They really meant it didn't they?'. But when they see the children getting on their rain gear & painting with the rain or splashing in puddles, the same parents can be heard talking about how much fun it all looks.
In the past I have had parents who would have said 'Oh they aren't that well today so can they stay inside?' but when I explained that this wasn't feasible due to staff child ratios & that if they were that sick they really shouldn't be in school, no one has ever said this recently.
Having the correct clothing for the children is also a must - we have the wet weather gear, extra coats, hats & gloves & waterproof mittens & every child has a pair of wellies in school. In the warmer weather we also have sun hats & provide lots of water to drink.
We also try to involve as many parents as possible on our outdoor trips & visits - especially our monthly forest visits. Even those who never come along to join us fully appreciate the opportunity for their child to enjoy being in a natural environment, playing in puddles & with mud etc. It's lovely to hear so many parents say 'Well that shows you had a great time' when their child has the remains of a muddy splattered face at home time.
I firmly believe that the key to having all parents on board is to inform them from the start so there are no surprises. I can honestly say, hand on heart that in the past 6 years I haven't had any parent question our outdoor play approach, in fact more often than not they are in praise of it.
I was delighted to see over 40 posts linked up in the last outdoor play party, and it did seem that most of them were about the snow that had gripped parts of the UK last week. More importantly there were alots of brand new blogs that linked up too. My favourite from the last link up was from Emma over at My Little 3 and Me. Perhaps because it combined 2 of my favourite things - snow & cats!!
How did your kids play outdoors this week?
- Any kind of children's outdoor play-related posts are welcome!
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