My World Outdoors

Spending time outdoors and particularly in natural environments is good for all of us and especially for children. The Care Inspectorate recognises the benefits of accessing the great outdoors and this resource aims to make a positive contribution to the further development of outdoor play as part of early learning and childcare in Scotland. We have a specific role to play as the national regulator and improvement body, providing direction and advice to registered services, including childminders, playgroups, nurseries and out-of-school provision.

My World Outdoors - Sharing good practice in how early years services can provide play and learning wholly or partially outdoors

There is a long historical tradition of outdoor experiences for children in Scotland, marked by innovation stretching back over two hundred years. There is significant evidence that playing outdoors is more than just fun: it can contribute positively to child development, child health, and early learning. That is why, in this resource, we have grouped together examples of effective practice around the recognised wellbeing indicators, where children are safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible, and included. With creativity and effective leadership, all types of care services in every part of Scotland can use outdoor play to support each of these wellbeing indicators for children.

This is a good practice resource which shares inspiring stories from services showing how much children are benefiting from outdoor play.  Mainstream as well as outdoor-based services are featured and it aims to encourage all early learning and childcare services to make the most of the natural environment. This resource is as much for urban as rural services and is for all age ranges of children and different service types.       

My world outdoors - children and leavesMany childcare services have access to their own gardens and outdoor play areas; many are also close to outdoor parks, woods, beaches and fields which can help stimulate a love of the outdoors and allow children and young people to explore nature. Some such services provide an outdoors experience one day a week. Others have designed their provision in an even more innovative direction. 

This resource pack seeks to learn both from mainstream services which are providing innovative access to the outdoors, and care services provided entirely outside. We also hope it helps support a move away from a risk-averse approach to one where proportionate risk assessment support children to enjoy potentially hazardous activities safely.

My world outdoors - Group of children at beachFor practitioners providing services, we hope that you find this resource helpful in promoting outdoor and natural play, whether the service is wholly or just partly delivered outdoors. The SHANARRI framework used in this resource also provides a good model for assessing and reporting your impact on children’s outcomes. Looking through the SHANARRI lens also reflects changes to how we inspect services, moving from measuring inputs such as whether an outdoor play area is safe and adequately equipped, to assessing outcomes and how children actually experience outdoor and environmental play in all weathers. This resource is also intended to be helpful to specialist early-years practitioners within the Care Inspectorate and local authority managers planning and commissioning services, as well as people providing services.


As part of our ongoing work with Scottish Government promoting the development of outdoor play for children, we have published ‘Seeing the wood for the trees’.  This is an academic paper that charts how the regulation of early learning and childcare has evolved to improve children’s experience of outdoor play. The paper will contribute to the growing body of knowledge on the scrutiny of care and will be added to the course materials for the Professional Development Award. There is considerable interest in the role that we are playing in supporting the flourishing of outdoor play in Scotland. For example, the Lawson Foundation is funding the Care Inspectorate to give a keynote address at a conference in Canada and our presentation will be based on this paper.



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