The Great Outdoors… Come rain, or shine!
Richard McLelland, Head of Early Years
When we look back on our own childhoods, the first things we reminisce about are the holidays we had and the time we spent outdoors.
My most powerful memories of the outdoors as a young child are spending most of one holiday crab fishing off a pier in Aberdovey, and another climbing the apple tree in my garden. In the summer I would create a ‘base’ from planks of wood amongst the branches to sit in, and read, draw and eat my lunch for days on end. Early autumn days were spent conker hunting and blackberrying with my grandmother. During these times, I had the opportunity and freedom to ‘be at one’ with nature, something that we would all benefit from doing more often in our busy lives.
It’s ok to just ‘be’!
It is vitally important in our days, filled to the brim with schedules, meetings and all manner of demands, that we make time to just ‘be’. Indeed, as adults it is our responsibility to ensure our children have this opportunity too. What better place to do this than in the great outdoors!
Outdoor learning is often best when it is open-ended. A walk through the park, or an explore of the garden, doesn’t need to be accompanied by a long list of objectives to be ticked off. Rather we should follow our children’s interests, see the world from their perspective, and be ready to answer a wealth of questions that may arise. Not having answers to all of them is fine. Instead acknowledging their curiosity with “What a great question! I’m not sure either, I wonder how we can find out?” is a great example to your child of how we as adults are learners too.
Be an Explorer!
Adventures outdoors can be made even more exciting by taking ‘explorer bags’ with you. Having their own pack of open-ended resources is a great way for children to interact with what they may see and find on their travels. You can build one yourself, and they also make great birthday presents. Items that you may include in your child’s explorer bag are:
- A set of good quality children’s binoculars
- A small waterproof sheet or blanket to sit on
- A magnifying glass
- A drinks bottle and snack box* (children can help make the snack beforehand)
- A ball of twine
- A notepad and pencils
- A camera
*Some tasty snacks are probably the most important item, as it’s crucial to keep the explorers motivated and full of energy!
Come rain or shine!
My grandmother, an avid rambler, took my family out for long walks in the countryside in every type of weather imaginable. At the time I had very mixed feelings about this, but in hindsight these times were some of my favourite and have shaped my adult thinking and habits. If we shy away from so called ‘bad weather’, we run the risk of raising children who will do the same and will therefore miss out on so much of the world around them. Putting waterproofs and boots on and getting out in the rain offers a whole new way of interacting with the world around us, and a walk on a windy day can be an exhilarating, breathless experience.
Embrace a love of the outdoors and everything it has to teach us, and instil the same spirit in your children, and you’ll fill them with life long memories, as well as a natural curiosity and desire to discover things for themselves. Aristotle wrote that “To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” If this quote isn’t enough to get your child out of the front door on a cold or wet day, perhaps the words of Elsa from Frozen would be more successful. In her own words, “The cold never bothered me anyway.”
At Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School, we are delighted to be able to offer the opportunity for outdoor learning in a two-acre garden setting unrivalled at any other preparatory school in London. Being on the doorstep of Hyde Park adds another incredible environment for our pupils to explore and learn in. Outdoor learning is part of everyday life for our Early Years classes, come rain or shine, and during this academic year we are extending our outdoor learning programme throughout the school, so every child can benefit from the amazing resource we have just outside our door.