An outdoor classroom is a real must for any EYFS setting - but sometimes setting one up and getting it learning ready can be a bit daunting. Here we’re sharing our top 5 types of products to include in your outdoor provision to make sure it’s set up perfectly for your little learners to explore.
While it might be tempting to go all out on your resource purchasing, you have to be sure you’ve got a tidy and accessible space to store everything! Whatever the size of your outdoor space, there’s a storage solution to meet your needs. The key overall is having an easy clean, accessible spot where you can see everything laid out clearly. Nothing is worse than a hectic storage cupboard at 8am on a Monday morning, that’s for sure! Cosy’s Reading and Writing Sheds are a brilliant way to get an all in one storage solution going. If you are after more of a low level solution, look for simple bucket or box storage units. Have a group of keen adventurers in your cohort who love a bit of mud? A simple welly rack will also reap lots of benefits while saving the chaos of coat pegs!
Next up is an outdoor staple - the infamous mud kitchen! When deciding what mud kitchen is best for your setting, consider the age of your cohort, their overall interests and what key learning opportunities you’re hoping to focus on. Perhaps you have toddlers in your room or classroom - in which case a toddler size mud kitchen will do just the trick. If you’re in a larger setting or working with foundation stage two (FS2) children, you might go for a larger corner unit to share across classrooms. Looking for something for slightly older key stage one children? A more challenging kitchen with pumps, sized for taller children, will work perfectly.
Sensory play shouldn’t stop at a mud kitchen - your outdoor area is in fact the ideal spot for play that can get wet, muddy and sticky (the best kind in our opinion!). Nothing says early years quite like a sandpit - and this lidded sandpit is the perfect combination of sensory play and easy tidy up. Great for enhancing with dinosaurs, treasure and pirates! Alongside sand play comes its popular cousin, water play. These Cascading Water Stands are perfect for encouraging lots measuring, mixing, pouring and stirring - fill with play safe petals and food colouring for a magical potion! For a real one stop shop of sensory play, consider a larger focal furniture piece like the Cosy Clear Explorer, with plenty of space for attaching drain pipes, ramps and more.
With your mud kitchen and sensory play in full force, it’s time to think about how your outdoor area can best cater to children’s physical development. For many children the best place to develop their gross motor skills is in the great outdoors, where big movements are free and easy! We have lots of different products to support in this area of learning. Monkey bars are perfect for arm strength and that all important brachiating that children just love. Supporting coordination and balance is also an important area of the early years and beyond - so a ready built balance set will work wonders. Finally, a great piece of equipment to go with is a climbing set. We love this small climbing crest as a starting point for new settings or those with younger children.
Dens and Shelters
While getting outdoors is all about experiencing all kinds of weather, sometimes little ones need a spot to shelter in. If it’s rainy and windy outside, a purpose built outdoor shelter can coax the most timid of learners out into the great outdoors! These are also great spots for cosying up with a book, having quiet chats, setting up as specific learning areas, or for group work. This Larger Reading Corner is the perfect place to house lots of books and cosy cushions, while this Super Shelter is a great spot to dedicate to role play, literacy or maths with plentiful resources inside. If you’re after something a little more open and den like, this cosy spot will work a treat. Finally, an outdoor barn can also be a great focal area for your outdoor provision!
We hope this list gives you a strong starting point with which to set up your outdoor classroom. The key, as always, is focusing on the needs and interests of your cohort - and with a huge variety of options with YPO, you’re sure to cover them!