Editor's View - Fresh air and fun

Monday, August 24, 2015

Outdoor nurseries past and present enshrine important principles of good practice,says Editor Liz Roberts

Outdoor nurseries are certainly not a new concept, as our article by Linda Pound on the McMillian sisters shows (see pages 34-35 of our 24 August issue).

The Rachel McMillan Open Air Nursery was established in 1914 and still stands in its original location with many of its original features today. And the principles that the McMillan sisters held dear are just as relevant now - active outdoor play, the importance of movement to learning and development, and an emphasis on imagination and first-hand experience.

So it has been really interesting to see the recent rapid growth in the number of outdoor-only nurseries across the UK, something we explore in our essential guide on pages 19-25.

Outdoor settings are being set up in a huge range of places, from inner-city to remote countryside. Their methods vary too, but all involve children spending the great majority of their time in the open air, exploring nature and experiencing the elements and changing seasons.

The children are benefiting hugely from this approach, and what is more, it has struck a chord with parents who are queuing up to get a place for their child. The unconventional nature of outdoor nurseries does not seem to scare them off, especially when their offspring are sleeping, eating and learning better.

And it is really heartening to find that Ofsted, too, can judge such provision against their inspection criteria and have rated several outdoor nurseries highlighted in our guide as 'outstanding'.

Perhaps the only downside is that this way of playing, learning and developing will come to an end all too soon for these children, and their primary school experience may not be an easy 'fit'.

Rachel and Margaret McMillan would surely thoroughly approve of the outdoor nursery boom though.

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