EYFS Activities - An A to Z of learning: 0 is for…outdoor learning

the Rachel Keeling Nursery School team
Tuesday, June 1, 2021

From exploring plants and wildlife to growing food, climbing trees and using the mud kitchen, the outdoors is a vital area, explain the Rachel Keeling Nursery School team

Spotting birds in the nursery’s garden in east London
Spotting birds in the nursery’s garden in east London

At Rachel Keeling Nursery School we are lucky to have a beautiful, mature garden. We are also incredibly fortunate to have a community who are green-fingered and willing to share their skills. What follows is not an exhaustive list, but rather how we have organised our outdoor learning, and perhaps some considerations you may ponder on.

We do not replicate the indoors outside. The outside is a unique and magical place; it does not need to mirror the inside learning environment.


The wildlife and plants offer our children endless awe and wonder. We follow the natural rhythm of the year when it comes to the wildlife, and planting and harvesting. It really connects us to the earth, and it is amazing how you can encourage wildlife into urban gardens with some research and consideration.

We have developed some log piles for minibeasts, planted a variety of flowers that will attract bees, butterflies and other wildlife, and positioned bird feeders to encourage birds (and squirrels!) to visit.

We supplement the area with books, charts, posters, binoculars and mark-making materials. The books and charts are also a great talking point as our avian friends will often disappear once the children come outside. We will sit and read the books and charts together, awaiting the arrival of some feathered friends.


We grow seasonal fruit and vegetables. These are tended to by the children with the support of the team and used in the snack area when ready. Children plant, care for and eventually harvest our wares, recognising ripe strawberries and raspberries and knowing where to pick the mint for afternoon tea. These are important skills for life!

We often plant things with the children that they can take home to grow on the windowsill. Small trowels and hand forks work for them to use, as well as smaller watering cans. We fill these up from the water butts: we also have wet-weather gear adjacent, great for little ones who like to bathe themselves rather than the plants.


Luckily we have some fallen trees and a small climbing tree the children can use to develop their climbing and strength. We also position some simple planks and ladders with A-frames so children can develop confidence, balance and co-ordination. Cycling is also very important to us (see ‘B is for…bikes’!) and we work systematically to support children to develop their confidence and skills from the balance bikes onto two-wheeler bicycles.


We have a mixed water and sand area in the garden, where children will sustain play for considerable amounts of time. Mixing, digging, gathering, talking, plotting and exploring.

Our mud kitchen is undergoing some development. We are trialling upright containers with mud in for digging and creating potions. We reviewed our previous set-up as children were getting so dirty and staff were spending long periods of time cleaning boots, coats, hands, carpets and so on. This is an important consideration: does your provision enable staff to be available to interact and support children?


At Rachel Keeling, our staff work in three-week cycles – this means the garden team are in the garden for three weeks – leading the learning and being able to move children's learning on. There is minimal setting up and tidying away in our garden space, allowing adults and children to have the maximum time to play and learn together. Resources are kept to a minimum so that we do not have tidy-up-time trauma (and it supports our Covid risk-minimisation measures).

How magical it is to be able to lie on the small hillock we have and look up and watch the clouds go by, aeroplanes, birds and occasionally the air ambulance.

Get outside – and if you don't have outside space, see what you can bring from the outside, in!

See more of our explorations at: www.rachelkeeling.towerhamlets.sch.uk/learning-outside.html

Rachel Keeling Nursery School is an Outstanding setting in Bethnal Green, east London

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