Pioneers such as Margaret McMillan built their early year’s curriculum upon the value of outdoor play and its learning opportunities.
“children in a good outdoor play area will appear active, absorbed, motivated and purposeful” (Bilton, 2006)
The Uganda Child Rights NGO Network, (UCRNN) conducted research into the state of the country’s nursery education in 2003 which confirmed that most respondents were still complacent with children learning through play (UCRNN, 2003). I have found progress to be slow in this area , partly due to the financial obstacles and lack of qualified teachers.
The importance of play has been reinforced in the United Kingdom through the introduction of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) ,2008, which states that
“Play underpins the delivery of the EYFS and children must have opportunities to play indoors and outdoors”, (DCSF,2008)
Scandinavia views the early year’s environment as one contributing to the raising of the next generation, preparing for life in society, not just for the role in school.
“outside is a half of a whole, inside being the other half” Nicholson (2003)
The Department for Education (DfE) in 2010 announced that all local authorities were to freeze funding on new playgrounds and since then this sector has remained in a state of uncertainty.
In 2004 the Greater London Authority stated that “poverty has shaped the experiences of children’s play outdoors and continues to do so today” (Tovey, 2008).
A universal problem? Play-away would like to become more involved in play areas in need within our own communities in the U.K
I find the direction which Liz Truss MP , Childcare Minister, appears to be taking rather worrying and a step backwards from the learning through play and exploration ethos.
Liz Truss stated at a recent Nursery World conference that “ Free-flow play between outdoors and indoors is not a requirement and not something Ofsted is looking for.” (April, 2013) and has also been heavily criticised for her comments stating many nurseries were filled with toddlers ‘running around with no sense of purpose’. In my professional opinion under 5′s should be allowed to do exactly that! There is plenty of research to show Liz Truss that learning through play and outdoor play has a positive impact on development and I only hope she begins to listen to the experts in this field!
I am passionate about early years outdoor play, which is what motivated me to set up Play-away in the first instance, it has struck me recently that Play-away could be more involved at home with current early years issues as well as those overseas. An evolving project!
The voice of the child and the early years practitioners are perhaps more important than ever to continue to progress and develop outdoor play.