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Young children, the outdoors and nature
Young children, the outdoors and nature

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2.3 Auditing your outdoor experiences

Jan White (cited in Early Education, 2022) suggests that settings can ask themselves a range of questions to help them develop how babies and young children access and experience the outdoor environment. These questions act as an audit to help a setting reflect on what the challenges and risks are with regards to supporting young children in spending time outside. White then shares tips and strategies about how these challenges and risks can be minimised. The questions fall within three themes – how the outdoor space is used, what the difficulties might be with regards to the design of the outdoor space and what challenges may emerge from management. White’s questions have been adapted here so that they can apply to both the home environment and the Early Years setting.

Activity 2 Auditing your outdoor experiences

Timing: Allow 15 minutes

Have a look at the questions in the table below. Spend some time considering your responses and then write your answers in your Learning journal or text box below.

Table 1
  • What are your feelings about very young children being outdoors?
  • What do you believe babies, toddlers and two-year-olds get from outdoor play?
  • How much time do babies and toddlers in your care actually spend outside (including walks in the locality/community) each day, across the whole year?


  • How easy is it to move between indoors and outdoors?
  • How do you feel about being outside in your space, throughout the year?
  • What do children like about being outside and being in this outdoor space?


  • What gets in the way of going outdoors?
  • Do routines limit time spent outdoors or the flexibility to go outdoors whenever children express interest or need?
  • Are there some issues that change across the year?


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Having considered these questions, you might be feeling more aware of the particular challenges in providing outdoor opportunities for babies and toddlers. Perhaps you’ve realised that the children do not spend enough time outside, particularly at certain points of the year. You might have considered issues around easy access to the outdoor environment, or that there are particular features that do not work well outdoors for your youngest children. Maybe you have recognised that there are constraints with respect to practical issues like staffing or maintaining children’s routines.

White gives some suggestions to help think about how to facilitate higher quality outdoor experiences. For instance, she suggests that in terms of design, it is important that ‘the outdoor environment has plenty of flexibility for use and change, and is usable all year round’. In terms of management, it is key to ‘consider how to develop routines and planning systems so that the outdoors can be used more flexibly and spontaneously to respond to children and opportunity’. Time must be taken to ‘discover what is really limiting the use of outdoor environments beyond the setting and work to solve these issues’. These issues will be specific to individual settings, as will the solutions.