The dreary, dismal weather has been a clear indicator that we’re well into autumn now. In fact, winter is peeping around the corner, ready for us with chilly days, frosty starts and possibly snow. For some, this might signal an end to the enjoyment that the outdoors brings during the spring and summer. Although it might be colder and wetter, the outdoors is still a valuable resource to nurture learning and development throughout childhood. It just means that we have to dress appropriately and ensure children do the same. There’s still much to see and do outside, whatever the weather.

The shorter days are a perfect reason to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Children need that time to be physically active, especially as time outdoors when at home could be more limited. In order to get the most from the outdoors, it’s important to ensure families understand the need for children to access the space all year round. There are many ways you can do this but here are some ideas:

  • Feature your outdoor play activities on your setting or school newsletter - showcase how much fun the children have been having!
  • Invite families in for an outdoor stay and play session. This is a great way to share ideas of ways to have fun in the outdoors, come rain or shine.
  • Dedicate a space on your website to outdoor play and learning.
  • Showcase your love for the outdoors in your welcome pack or prospectus. It's a good way for families to understand from the outset that their child will be playing outdoors in all weathers.

It's also important that families know how to ensure their children get the most from outdoor play in all weathers. Communicate the need for appropriate clothing, including a warm, waterproof coat, wellies, gloves and hats. Puddle suits or waterproof trousers are also great for younger children who particularly enjoy getting wet and muddy! Children can have so much more fun outdoors when they're not cold and wet so it's also important to have spares - if children are driven to school it's quite easy for families to forget a coat.

Even the wet, gloomy days can provide vital experiences for children of all ages. The outdoors offers completely different learning experiences than the indoors environment. Children can run around, be messy and noisy and play can be bigger and louder. Away from the confines of the classroom, there is a sense of freedom which can nurture creativity and curiosity. It's a valuable learning space in it's own right and so much more than just taking indoors resources outside. Instead, it's a space where children can engage with nature, whatever the weather, inspiring discussion, thinking and learning. This can be very much a seasonal experience...

  • Watching as the leaves are blown from the trees by the wind. Can you catch them?
  • Leave a water filled tuff spot out overnight when a temperatures are expected to freeze. A lovely way to promote sustained shared thinking as you wonder with the children about what happened to the water.
  • Hunt for frosty cobwebs, noticing the shapes and patterns.
  • Make use of carrier bags by turning them into simple kites.
  • Collect rainwater in plastic bottles. A hands on way to introduce language around quantity and volume.
  • Work together to construct a den to shelter from the rain. Can you hear the pitter patter sound on the roof? Perhaps you could sing some rainy day songs.
  • Children can learn to take risks, such as having to be more careful when balancing on a wet log.

Outdoor play 'looks' different in the autumn and winter, enabling children to get a new perspective on the play space. Leaves change colour and fall, the ground is wet underfoot, our hands and noses feel cold and frosty days bring a natural beauty perfect for mark making. The seasonal changes children spot can lead to wonderful conversations around time, growth, decay and dormancy, inspiring vocabulary and expressive language.

However, it is important to think of the barriers to outdoor play in all weathers. Perhaps you have had conversations with families as they have not wanted their child out in the cold for fear of them catching a bug. In reality, coughs and colds are viruses and not related to children playing outside in the chillier months. If Covid has taught us anything, it is that germs are less likely to be spread outdoors than they would be in stuffy, poorly ventilated classrooms.

Children can thrive outdoors in all weathers, developing their gross motor skills, engaging in collaborative play, risk taking, being physically active and enjoying moments of awe and wonder. It's also a great way to get vitamin D, even in winter! We need to act as role models, though, showing that we enjoy being outdoors as much as the children. Just like them, warm, waterproof clothes are a must!

We'd love to hear about the activities your setting or school enjoy in the colder months. Don't forget to tag us in your play on our social media channels!

Don't forget to share your Autumn activities with us on our social media channels.