Sunday, 17 July 2016

Indoor v outdoor - play v learning

Yesterday I shared the following post on my FB page
Preschoolers need more outdoor time at child care centers

The phrase

"Only 3 in 10 children had at least 60 minutes of a full child-care day outdoors for recess, as is recommended by guidelines. "
concerns me not only because so many children are playing so little outside... BUT mostly because outdoor play is seen as recess...
For me outdoor and indoor play AND learning have equal value... one is not better than the other... both are equally vital as part of a balanced diet of play and learning... some days more out than in... some days more in than out... but everyday more than an hour, regardless of the weather...

I feel it is a little troubling that there is STILL this distinction between learning and play... that there is STILL this distinction between learning happening indoors and play happening outdoors...

There are so many aticles about the importance of outdoor play... but sometimes I feel it is becoming like a little seperate movement of its own... rather than being properly integrated into the play and learning that happens in a young child's life.

I remember the many dialogues about how to improve outdoor spaces at previous preschools I have worked at... and how we should value the outdoor space as a learning environment in the same way as the indoor space...

and from my Swedish perspective learning and play are woven together... indoors learning was not a sit down thing, learning was a hands on through play kind of thing... so please don't misintrepret my learning indoors and outdoors as taking sit down learning outside!!

I agree that children need outdoor play... they need to learn through play.
I also know that we as adults should not be hijacking their play either... we should not be controlling... but have guiding hands... we should not have a hidden agenda... but stimulating their natural curiosity...

So if we are providing stimulating environments where the children can play... they will also learn. I am also aware that my role as an educator of young children is also to inspire and to challenge them... so part of the day is activity based... one activity every day to build on their play, to build on the knowledge... either to solidify it, or to expand, or to challneg it completely...

this last year the activities provided have been

Mondays... dance and movement... the children's play and development needs always being the basis of the games they played here, and the group activities we tested out... often the children took ideas from this 1-2 hour session into their own play... (sessions always lasted as long as there is interest)

Tuesdays... philosophical dialogue... we talk about what is interesting and relevant to the project... to deepen our understanding, to allow me to know how the children comprehend the project, and how I can continue to challenge and provoke their thinking... this lasts anything from 10 minutes to 60 minutes depending on the children.

Wednesdays... in the atelier... creative axplorations... using art materials, technology etc etc... often a time to explore ideas with our hands...

Thursdays... excursion... we travel further afield to explore the city we live in, to find parks, forests, musems etc that are connected with the project and children's play... we are then outside for a full three hours.

Fridays... song meeting with the whole preschool together for 30 minutes, then outdoor play in a playspace/environment of teacher choosing... Monday to Wednesday the children choose where we go out to play... we play 1-2 hours each morning outside. The reason why we as teachers choose Thursday and Friday is to continually provide the children with inspiration of places we can go and explore.

The afternoons are dedicated free play... indoors and outdoors... where we as educators need to think about how the environment can enable to deepen their play... as we KNOW that learning happens within play... but if we are not aware of the play then we can not challenge it, provoke it, enrich it... however you like to phrase it. The children are not sorted by age in the afternoons, but are free to explore play across the ages... the WHOLE preschool is available to them

HAVING an outdoor space of your own is not essential...although "having" an outdoor space might have its perks...  something I have learned in the last 3.5years due to working at a setting that does not have its own outdoor space ( the problem of a city, taking over an old post-office to create a preschool)...

 we ARE outside everyday... we are a part of the community instead... we are in local parks, the local square, the forest, we take public transport... the city belongs to us...

So its not so much about what you HAVE... but what you do with the resources at your disposal... and sometimes those are resources the city has, the local area has rather than what your actual setting has.
Over the many years I have worked most have said it is impossible to take 1-2 yr olds out on excursions... and yet that is what we do every day... sometimes the "excursion" is just a few meters until the children reach a puddle and their full focus is there... sometimes the destination is not important, but the getting there... the process. It means we are listening to the children's play. We have put aside our agenda, we see the learning in what the children do... and we make that visible... to the children when they need to see it/hear it... and to our colleagues so we can improve the activities/facilities to further enable the children's play... and of course to the parents.

We do not view the outdoor play as a recess from the learning... neither do we see the indoor learning as a recess from play... they are all woven together... they are of equal importance... free play inside, free play outside, creative play in and out, child lead play, teacher lead play, role-play, games etc etc... all forms of play and learning occurring in both the indoor and outdoor environments...


It is not outdoors is better than indoors... it is not play OR learning... they are all essential components of a child's healthy development. 


I understand the need to talk about outdoor play... especially in countries that are not valuing it, not rpoviding enough outdoor experience... and are obviously not making the connection of play and learning... but still seeing them as seperate entities.

We need to bring it together, we need to value play AS learning... but not with an adult agenda, we need to value the outdoors as a space for play and learning of equal value as the indoor space... that play and learning happens in BOTH... not one more than the other... not one being more important that the other... but as essential ingredients in a child's learning/play diet.

Below are images of play and learning... indoors and outdoors...

risky play can happen indoors too... sawing to create robots... or cutting vegetables to make lunch... or jumping of stepp ladders with pillows piled high under... risky play is NOT just an outdoor thing

exploring weather is defenintely much easier outside than inside... and needs to be played in

water play... indoors and outdoors... and always so much learning going on with the play... from science, to weight and volume, to social learning of collaboration and problem solving...

learning about plants and nature is easier outside... especially how big nature can be

discovering wildlife... both inside and outside
seasons can be explored easily outside... but nature can also be taken indoors to explore and play with... I have experienced a wonderful thwoing leaves around the room session with two year olds indoors...

sensory play indoors and outdoors...
contruction, science, testing outdoors trhough play

art experience indoors... as winter is long and cold in Sweden we cannot always do full body painting outside... but it has happened
but art does not have to be full body all the time... we take the atelier outside as often as we can... windy days can be a bit more of a challenge...
clean up can be fun too... learning happens in play... and sometimes cleaning up is playful too!
and the great thing about taking art outside is that the children explore in new ways... and this is the local square... we took a table and the art things out... this also shows that if you really want to play and learn outside you can, even if you have no own outdoor space of your own... you just have to make it happen.

some activities are best indoors... as we just need the electricity to make the glue guns work... but I guess with a little determination, even this could be done outside!!!

this was an indoor experiment... letting go of a balloon to see where it would land... the children predicted all the balloons would land in the same place... we replicated the experiment outside... and there the balloon moved differently... because of the wind.

outdoor playoffers great opportunities for gross motor skill collaboration... but the outdoors is not the only space for collaboration

playing with the dark... of course this is something we could do outside as well... but living in the city means there are so many street lights that reall dark dark is hard to find... despite there being little daylight hours during the winter!

nature can be taken inside to play with in new ways... and plenty of problem solving, maths, collaboration, creativity etc going on too!

salt on a mirror offers a chance to be creative and also a sensory experience... hard to do outside... but outdoors it can be done in sand, snow, gravel etc...

there is more space outside for big play and big movement... but we also think this is important indoors too... and have a room specially for big movement play
contruction can happen outdoors too... not just inside in the construction area...

by adding new materials to the construction area... new designs, new ideas... lights were added!

learning through play... learning about the warmth of summer, about sun, water and rainbows... about plants needing water to grow... etc

learning about appropriate clothing... water is not always warm, or pleasnat to cool you down... soemtimes it makes you really cold...

exploring things outdoors... and then taking that experience indoors (see photo below)

newspapers and water... just warmer

the overhead allows children to play... but also learn about the world around them... size, math etc

play sometimes is just play... and the learning is not always obvious... its an experience... play can allow children to be filled with wonder, with joy, with security... and is valuable JUST for that... for without joy, wonder and security there can be no learning



1 comment:

  1. You bring up a perfect example of how segmented education has become at all ages, when children are learning about a variety of domains all of the time. I really appreciate you sharing how you make different priorities visible to children and the community throughout your week. Although there is a focus for each Monday, for example, the children's way of working is still the priority.

    I read an article a few months ago that was about how to get more children to "play" outside - implying that if children are not running and engaging with gross motor activities, being outside does not count. We have segmented outdoor play to mean running, and indoor play to be quiet. Your images that mix all of things up are the perfect illustration to contrast those traditional ideas. Thanks Suzanne :)