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Books for very young children should have lots of pictures and novelty features, but minimal text. Ruth Thomson spells out what to look for.

Outdoors, children can lose their inhibitions when it comes to reading, writing and talking - and the right mix of resources can help, says Helen Bromley.

Trimdon Grange Infant and Nursery School can offer some important pointers on best practice and provision outdoors, says Elizabeth Jarman.

Outdoor games are healthy, teach valuable skills, and require only basic resources such as bean bags, hoops and chalk, says Helen Bilton.

A round-up of products that will encourage young children to become explorers, viewing the world close up or in a different light. Compiled by Ruth Thomson.

Mathematical learning need not be a dull or daunting prospect, thanks to the ability of well-equipped outside spaces to let children immerse themselves in complex ideas while at play.

Letting children loose on a bunch of planks and swings is not conducive to sound physical development - intelligent guidance and planning are needed, writes Anne O'Connor.

Whether they are fashioned from hedgerows or built for purpose from tents and playhouses, dens should be personal retreats for children and places that inspire their imagination and learning, says Diana Lawton.

Outdoor play is essential in the physical and mental development of children. Helen Tovey explores the benefits of a well-resourced outside environment.