Discovering through outdoor play

Newtyle and Eassie playgroup is a private daycare service supporting up to 20 children near Blairgowrie. The playgroup provides a richly stimulating environment for children, both indoors and out, and encourages the full participation of children in leading and reflecting on their own learning and development.

A key feature highlighted in a recent inspection report is the playgroup’s regular ‘Forest School’ days, which take place one day a week in nearby woods. We filmed the playgroup on one of the trips.

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Speaking at the time, Inspector Linda Paterson said children using the service have the opportunity to spend a morning “really just enjoying the outdoors and using any opportunity available to learn [and] explore the environment”.

The playgroup’s manager, Pat Small, explained the trips outdoors were “all about discovery” and allowing the children to explore and lead their own learning. Children are then encouraged to revisit and evaluate their own learning, using photographs, video footage and audio recordings from the day. A large ‘learning journal’ then provides an environment for all the children to be involved in “sustained shared thinking”, exploring and sharing what they have learned during the day.

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Inspector Linda suggested that outdoor learning is not just about the obvious benefits of being physically active in the fresh air but also the “huge range of opportunities for learning of every kind”.

She said: “We’ve seen them today; counting sheep, drawing in the dirt with sticks, measuring water; just feeling all the natural bits of the environment. It’s absolutely essential for children I think. There are lots of working parents who maybe don’t have time to actually get out and about as much as they would like to and for these children at this playgroup they are out most weeks once a week to have this kind of experience. I think it’s invaluable.”

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Both the outdoor and indoor environments are used to provide children with a range of stimulating learning experiences. Through the curriculum the children have covered topics such as planting and growing activities, while an interest in the harvest led to children grinding flour and using it to bake. 

Children's comments about their experiences include:

  • "We learn new things and see new insects. My favourite thing is looking at tadpoles change and get bigger"
  • "I like playing in the water with the fairies"
  • "I have learned about dead and live wool"

We publish regular inspection reports for all care services – and grades can go up and down depending on what we see. The effective practice we see here should always be read in conjunction with the latest inspection report.


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