The Scottish Government knows the importance of the early years of life for a child's development. That is why we have committed to expanding entitlement to funded early learning and childcare to 1140 hours/year by August 2020.
This expansion is rooted in delivering a high quality experience for our children and both our indoor and outdoor environments are key to that. We know the benefits outdoor play and learning can bring for young children in terms of their health and wellbeing, and physical and cognitive development. An important part of this is ensuring that our children have the daily, active outdoor play experience that we know is fundamental.
We recognise that one of the barriers to increased outdoor learning and play is a perceived difficulty in setting up or accessing an outdoor space. Within the Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland: Quality Action Plan we committed to help remove this barrier by producing this guide which supplies practical advice and support for Early Learning and Childcare settings and practitioners as well as the wider childcare sector.
This guide builds on a number of resources which promote outdoor learning within the education and childcare sectors. In 2016, the Care Inspectorate published the guidance My World Outdoors, which encourages further development of high quality outdoor play, and in 2017 Space to Grow was published as guidance for the Early Learning and Childcare 2020 expansion. This How to Guide complements these publications and also provides the important step-by-step, practical advice that we know will promote more use of the outdoors. As well as nursery settings, the guide is designed to be used by childminders, schools and out of school care settings who are looking to utilise local greenspace to enhance children's learning.
I would like to thank the Care Inspectorate and Inspiring Scotland for their work this year in shaping this guide. I commend its publication as an important step towards increased outdoor play and learning as part of the expansion of early learning and childcare by 2020 and beyond. I'm in no doubt of the impact this will have on nurseries, schools, after school and holiday clubs looking for guidance on how to utilise their local greenspace, whether that's in rural settings or right in the heart of our cities. I hope it assists in making it easier to get children outdoors, and to ensure that we create safe, nurturing and inspiring outdoor learning experiences which will no doubt help foster a true love of the outdoors in our young people that stays with them for a lifetime.
Playing and learning outdoors is life-enhancing. Jumping in puddles, playing hopscotch in the street, exploring your local wood and throwing snowballs with friends is not just the stuff of fond childhood memories. It is how children grow, learn and discover.
Playing outdoors is good for children's health and wellbeing, it develops their social skills and it helps with cognitive development, preparing them for a lifetime of learning. Research from around the world shows the huge benefits of playing outdoors. At Inspiring Scotland, we want all Scotland's children to have the best possible start in life. And we passionately believe that having fun outdoors from an early age is the best way we can help our children to thrive.
Embedding outdoor play into the fabric of young people's lives will require us all to work together. Nurseries, schools, councils, community groups and families all have a role to play in supporting our children to get outside but we recognise that many people don't know where to start.
In producing this how-to-guide, we hope to equip you with the skills and knowledge that you need to make playing and learning outdoors an everyday experience for our children.
I would like to thank Scottish Government for their consistent and passionate support for outdoor play and learning, and to acknowledge their commitment to making Scotland the best place to grow up.
And I would like to thank Care Inspectorate and many other partners for producing this guide alongside us and their commitment to increasing outdoor play and learning. We believe this will be an invaluable publication that can support us all to do the best for our children, and to reengage us all with our beautiful environment, making Scotland an even more wonderful place to live for generations to come.
This new guide is a result of partnership working between the Care Inspectorate and Inspiring Scotland.
The resource is important as it helps support the Scottish Government's A Blueprint for 2020: the Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland. In particular, this resource links to the Quality Action Plan (action 10), namely to, '…promote greater use of outdoor learning and physical activity by producing a 'how-to-guide on finding access to suitable outdoor areas and making the most of the opportunities that these offer to promote children's development.'
It provides practical advice on how to access local outdoor spaces and how outdoor nursery experiences can be developed, and takes into account Scotland's new Health and Social Care Standards.
The expansion of early learning and childcare in Scotland brings challenge and opportunity. There are exciting new opportunities to invest in and transform the way in which early learning and childcare is shaped and delivered. As part of this, we also have an important and timely opportunity to ensure that all children are offered high quality experiences as part of their provision.
We all know the benefits of outdoor learning, exercise and play for children. Playing, learning and having fun outdoors helps to improve wellbeing and resilience, as well as physical and mental health and also provides children with the opportunity to develop a life-long appreciation of the natural world. A growing body of research also shows a positive impact on educational attainment. The expansion of funded early learning and childcare provides an opportunity to define the type of experience we offer children during their early years.
I am pleased the Care Inspectorate and Inspiring Scotland have been able to support the development of this guide to setting up outdoor play-based childcare provision. It has been a welcome opportunity to support Inspiring Scotland's work with a number of local authorities, and their progress to deliver outdoor natural learning opportunities that will increase capacity in line with expansion, as well as to support quality outcomes. The benefits of outdoor play are highlighted and celebrated in the popular My World Outdoors resource and the Space to Grow publication. I hope you will find this 'how to' guide to be an equally practical and helpful resource.