A Sense of Place
Company: Bloomsbury Publishing
Age range: 2 years-plus
Annie Davy, the author, presents tried-and-tested strategies that support the well-being and learning journey of children through mindfulness, with a focus on learning outdoors. A Sense of Place is an easily accessible guide that will make outdoor learning more interesting and fun, while also developing children's resilience and resourcefulness.
The photographs are ‘brilliant and so natural’ one tester said, and although she admitted that she would not have thought to buy this book, she is ‘so glad’ to have had the opportunity to read it. ‘Not only does it support young children's learning of nature and the world around them, but it also helps practitioners to reflect on their own environment, practice and well-being, which is often overlooked,’ she said.
Company: Community Playthings
Age range: all ages
A perfectly proportioned, sheltered wooden seated area, where children can go for quiet activities, reading or role play. Made from weatherproof wood which will withstand years of play, the product's attention to detail is described as ‘excellent’ by one setting. The tester said, ‘We loved the netting that makes the children feel they cannot be seen. The simple design of attaching this means it doesn't slip and you do not need pegs or clips to hold it on.’ At first, children loved sitting in it and chatting to their friends. It then transformed into a den and a table was brought in to eat their mud pies.
It's ‘just the right size’ for pre-school children while at the same time allowing staff to join in the play or the conversations when requested, another setting remarked. It is also movable – it can be used as two separate benches if required – and there is storage under the bench for pens, paper and other resources.
Age range: 3 years-plus
Designed to extend outside block play and challenge children's thinking and communication skills, this set of 25 interconnecting wooden blocks and planks are described as being a ‘great’ addition to the testers' outdoor construction areas. Children used them to balance on and to make ramps for toy cars, trucks and remote-control vehicles to move along.
They are ‘solid but light to move’ and when engrossed in construction and design it was evident that they were ‘developing their critical thinking and problem-solving skills’, one setting expressed. Additional resources that would go well with the set include cable drums, broom poles and wheels, as this would have the potential to extend the play.
Kidunk Hooded Playsuits
Age range: 1-6 years
These stylish hooded playsuits, which were launched in 2017, are made of tough, soft fabric and are water and stain resistant. The tops and bottoms are available together or separately and can be zipped together to make comfy, stretchy playsuits. Designed by childcare experts with the aim of being ‘kid proof’ – and able to handle mud, grass, sand, milk, food or fizzy drinks – they are twin-needle stitched and invisibly coated with Teflon.
‘The material is nice and more comfortable for children than traditional waterproofs,’ according to one of the practitioners. She said it did a ‘good job’ of keeping children dry and staff liked the zips on the ankles and the zips around the waist to attach the trousers to the jackets. Another tester found them very waterproof, comfortable and said they wash easily.
Company: Crownhouse Publishing
Age range: 3-6 years
In Messy Maths: A Playful, Outdoor Approach for Early Years, Juliet Robertson offers a rich resource of ideas that will inspire you to tap into the endless supply of patterns, textures, colours and quantities of the outdoors and deepen children's understanding of maths through hands-on experience.
One setting which reviewed the product thanked the author for making maths ‘interesting and exciting’ and said that the book will ‘definitely’ be used on a daily basis. She said, ‘It's great that natural resources are used and no special resources are needed, just collections of objects that everyone has access to. I loved that it was easy to use and dip in and out of for inspiration. There were loads of new ideas and some I had forgotten about.’
All the testers loved the photos of the activities but would have liked to see more.
Mud Kitchen Activity Cards
Company: Yellow Door
Age range: 3 years-plus
With lots of muddy recipes to choose from, including a Gruffalo stew, seafood platter, and the classic mud pie, children will be inspired to mix, blend and create with this set of 16 plastic activity cards. Each card includes photos on one side with activities, vocabulary and extension ideas on the reverse.
Described as ‘attractive and a good addition’ to the mud kitchen, one reviewer liked the visually appealing ‘clear photographs’ showing the natural resources and ideas for the children to follow. The prompts for staff to use to encourage communication and the ‘Keep on exploring’ ideas to extend the activity were also ‘helpful’.