Barriers to outdoor play and how to tackle them
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Removing the barriers to outdoor play

14 July 2020 By The YPO Team

children playing in the rain

Outdoor play provides fantastic opportunities for exciting open-ended learning and role play, but we understand that it’s not always easy and there are things you need to prepare for. Here’s some advice on how to tackle common barriers to exploring the great outdoors.

Limited space

If your space is only small, make sure it’s well planned and invest in storage that means you don’t have all of your equipment out at once. Organise activities that play to the strengths of your environment – grass and woodland areas are great for minibeast hunts and paved areas are great for mark making.

Unpredictable weather

Be prepared! Ask parents to bring warm clothes in winter and hats and sun cream in summer. If necessary, you can limit the time spent outside – even short bursts of fresh air can really benefit children. When it’s cold plan activities with lots of movement to keep children feeling warm, and in hot weather incorporate water and ice into your outdoor play.

Safety concerns

It’s hugely important to keep children in your care safe; however this does not mean eliminating all risks. When managed properly, small risks help children to learn. Good planning and training can ensure safety across a huge range of outdoor activities.  That said, do ensure to conduct a risk assessment outside and provide training for staff if necessary.

Making a mess

Messy play is fantastic for sensory exploration. To minimise the burden of the big clear up, get the children involved and turn it into a fun activity which can also help a child’s learning and development. Invest in protective clothing to reduce the mess while still enabling children to get stuck in to all activities. Outdoor handwashing stations are also great for cleaning messy hands and promoting good hand hygiene outside.

Costly resources

Purchasing resources for both indoor and outdoor areas can make budgets feel stretched. Don’t overcomplicate the outdoor space – some of the best activities involve only loose parts and other natural materials along with a little imagination. Why not take a look at our blog to see how easy it is to encourage sensory play and development using natural loose parts


If your outdoor space is only small, it’s a good idea to invest in space-saving storage for all of your equipment and toys which will also protect them from the elements and help them last longer.

Parental concerns

Communication is key – explain outdoor activities clearly and highlight the benefits. If you have facilities to share photos with parents, ensure that you share some of the children enjoying outdoor spaces.

Staff motivation

Involve staff in planning– the more imaginative the better! If necessary, book training courses to enthuse staff about outdoor learning and provide resources that make it as easy as possible for staff to manage outdoor environment themselves.


Are you looking to maximise your outdoor space? The Cosy Collection at YPO can help you do just that.


Useful Blogs:

10 ideas to take learning outdoors on a budget

The health and wellbeing benefits of outdoor play

Play and learn outdoors with Cosy

Categories: Education , Furniture , Early Years

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