In these COVID times, the power of outdoor play is becoming even more widely recognised.  Settings are spending more and more time outdoors, with some becoming fully outdoors based.  Not only does being outdoors reduce the risk of COVID transmitting, but it’s also an empowering space to play in it’s own right.  However, outdoor play is not merely a matter of taking some of your indoor resources and putting them outside.  This undermines the potential of the outdoors.  With ever changing seasons and weather, the outdoors offers us a unique play and learning space which is always evolving.  We can tap into this, using it to inform the outdoor experiences we offer. 

Settings can promote outdoor play by developing a culture or ethos, centred around the values of being outdoors.  This is something a staff team need to work on together – it can’t simple by a set of statements everyone needs to agree to.  A culture is more than that.  It’s something we design and nurture together, a shared vision and understanding of what we do, how we do it and why.  By involving the whole team in the process of creating an ethos around outdoor play, we are nurturing a feeling of being together and connected.  Everyone understands what is expected of them and why, with the children and their experiences at the centre.

Our culture and ethos when it comes to outdoor play inspires us to create an environment where children are valued as individuals.  We, the educators, are positive role models, facilitating an enabling environment where children are challenged, enabled to take risks and have access to a variety of experiences and play areas.  Considering inclusivity within our ethos is vital in ensuring all children are able to access all areas.  Not just this, but the interests and characteristics of all children should be represented in our provision. Some will relish in burning off energy, running, shouting, being boisterous.  Others will seek a different type of play, something quieter and more reserved.  All children should be represented in the creation of an ethos. 

When brainstorming ideas as a staff team, it’s all about listening and respect.  Everyone should feel able to contribute and this is important – your ethos and culture is more likely to be successful if the team has created it together.  Importantly, think about what works for your setting.  Although many of us often scour social media for ideas and inspiration, when it comes to your culture and ethos, they must be unique to your setting. What works for one setting, may not be easily transferable to yours for many reasons including location, the ages and needs of your children, resources, staff and size of outdoor area.  All these factors will impact on the development of your ethos and culture.

Outdoor play - autumn treasures

It’s always a good idea to involve the families of children attending your setting.  Rather than creating your culture and ethos in isolation, invite families to share their views.  Similarly, consider the views of the children – even if some are non verbal, you can spend time observing their play as this can feed into your plans. 

Once you have agreed on your culture and ethos, share it with your families as a commitment to your role in providing enabling outdoor experiences.  This shouldn’t be just as a one off occasion – as new families join the setting, they should be made aware of your approach to outdoor play through your culture.  Consider outlining it in your welcome pack or on your website. 

Developing your culture and ethos is a process which takes time and dedication.  It’s something to be proud of, a way to empower the team to embrace the outdoors and all it offers in Early Years and beyond.  A place to play, learn, connect with nature, experience the seasons and weather extremes and embrace the freedom the outdoors offers. 

Share your outdoor play with us on our Social Channels - tag us @CosyDirect #CosyDirect in your play.


With thanks to The Cosy Creatives for this blog post and our Cosy Club Members for their input.