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Nurseries struggling with lack of outdoor space, new study shows

A survey of nearly 400 early years providers has shown that many settings are struggling with either inadequate or a total lack of outdoor space.

The Early Childhood Forum and national charity Learning through Landscapes – the organisations behind the survey – are appealing for more staff training in this area as well as help for practitioners to engage with parents about the importance of outdoor play for a child’s development.

They are calling on the government and Ofsted to strengthen statutory requirements for the sector, as well as provide better guidelines for settings and sounder information for parents about what they should expect for their children.

“There is plenty of well-documented research about the benefits of play and learning outdoors for young children, including their physical development, which is an area of current concern for public health in the UK,” said Juno Hollyhock, chief executive of Learning through Landscapes.

“So why are so many children in early years settings still not getting enough outdoor time?”

Melanie Pilcher, policy and standards manager at the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said that she welcomes the report and the attention it brings to the importance of outdoor play in early years education.

“Every child should have the opportunity to enjoy high quality and meaningful outdoor experiences, no matter what kind of setting they attend. It is unsurprising that some parents and practitioners have concerns over outside play, including bad weather, health and safety and children getting dirty, so any resource that can be shared to increase their awareness of the value of learning outdoors is to be embraced,” Pilcher said.

“Although there is already a lot of high quality outdoor play and learning happening across the sector, there is undoubtedly a need to empower and encourage practitioners to make the best use of the outdoor areas that they have.”