Sunday, 29 December 2013

Why go outside first thing?

For the past 7 years my class has started the day from outside, to us it now the norm & in fact in September when we are settling in & start off inside, it feels really alien to all of the staff & we can't wait until it is about the 3rd or 4th day & we can start going outside first thing again.
Why do we go outside first thing? Historically it all started 7 years ago when I had a class of 19 boys & 7 girls, not to stereotype but it was a very noisy, active class. One morning about 2 weeks in one little boy was having a hard time leaving his mum, English was not his first language & we had noticed he was much happier outside on the bikes. So I suggested to the main nursery assistant that we open the doors & go outside, he ran out & after about 5 minutes let his mum go home. We decided to try going outside first for a week to see if it made parting from parents/carers any easier. Guess what? Of course it did, there are a lot more 'distractions' outside, children want to run off to the slide, go on a bike, play with the water etc. But we have also found that when inside the classroom you have 1 or 2 parents staying around it is too many adults in the room & you really notice them whereas outside an extra adult is absorbed into the space & makes very little difference. It can be daunting for any child to have lots of adults standing around in the classroom but outside sometimes (at settling in time) we could have up to 6 extra adults & it makes little or no impact. 
A parent can withdraw to some of the many seating areas in the playground & allow their child to venture off to explore the area much easier than they can inside.
The bikes are always a draw & an opportunity to part easily from a parent.
From a practical point of view, it is much easier to watch the door when outside. For the 10 minutes that the main front door is open all it takes is for one adult to stand near the entrance out to the playground & then they can keep an eye on who is coming in or going out again. After 10 minutes we lock the main door & parents leave by the side gate in the playground & this is also how children arrive after 9.00. 


Some children will stand for a while taking all the choices in before venturing off to play outside.
Sometimes people ask 'Don't the children want to play with the toys on the way through the classroom to the playground?' and the answer is yes, sometimes but mostly no, they just know to walk through the room & go outside. As I said earlier we try to introduce the concept of going outside first from about the 3rd day & it is amazing how quickly the children & parents accept this routine.
Of course, best of all from a staff point of view - the children come into school with their coats already on! Only someone who has spent ages with 26-27 3-4 year olds putting on coats to go outside can know how great this aspect of the day is!! If we are going outside again after lunch, it is usually a more gradual event than the whole class getting ready at the same time, with 5-6 children at a time getting coats on & then heading outside.
However, the best aspect of this part of our routine is that when we do come inside, the children are much more ready for more settled play. This is the part that most visitors notice & comment on & it's not really any surprise that is the children have been outside for at least 60 minutes where they have been able to run, climb and shout that they are then more able to sit at quieter play when they come inside.
Having had the chance to run about engaged in more strenuous play outdoors, the children are 'ready' for more settled play when they come inside.
The fact that we go outside first thing, is something I stress at the parents information evening in the June before the children start nursery. It is also emphasised that this will happen every day no matter what the weather. By now a lot of our parents have already had children through the nursery in the past 7 years so they know the routine & more importantly they also realise that the system works. But there are always new parents who are a little taken aback on the first very dark or wet morning when they realise that we do really mean it when we say we are outside everyday.

11 comments:

  1. This makes total sense! A great post. My grandkids went sledding after dinner, in the dark. They had much fun outdoors. I went with them the next morning while my son-in-law cooked brunch!

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    1. Sounds perfect Jennifer & yes you are right it does make sense yet so few settings try it.

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  2. Perfect! I always liked to start outside first. The children have likely been 'inside' since the day before and need to get outside! It just makes so much sense.
    Gaie from Stomping

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    1. Hi Gaie, oh I love your whole set up! Thanks for the comment.

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  3. As our children have loved the great outdoors since a very small age I've see the benefits of outdoor play first hand. It would be great if more settings would take your lead and embrace the benefits of outdoor play. Thanks for linking up and I hope you have had a great Christmas.

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    1. Hi Fiona, I guess your children are lucky that they get to have such great outdoor experiences at home. Hope 2014 is a great year for you all.

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  4. I wish I could find someone like you guys in Los Angeles! What a beautiful, thoughtful and practical approach to balance outdoor play with focused learning!

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    1. Hi & thanks for the lovely comment. I honestly don't know why more schools don't try this, even if just for 30 minutes.

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  5. I think this is such an amazing way to start the day. Having a short burst of outdoor play wakes the mind up and you get to see the excitement from children starting their day. They then are 'woken up' and have good energy for the activities ahead of them. I see it when taking my daughter into her classroom and the teacher is trying to calm down 23 children, wanting them to sit on the carpet to take the register. It can be a little hard going.

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    1. Exactly! I can't imagine trying a settled carpet time activity first thing in the morning! I feel stressed even thinking about it!

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  6. I agree that this is the best way to start the day! At our centre we do our best to have the children outside for as much of the time as possible, it is just such as wonderful way for them to play and learn. I will admit we don't manage it everyday though, as we are in country Australia and so we have to be careful not to have the children outside when it is too hot or too cold (as many of them don't have the clothing for really cold weather, it not being the norm lol). You really do notice the difference on those days when we are stuck inside

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