Our Outdoor Learning Environment

We have recently embarked on a journey to redevelop our outdoor environment to better support the children and educators to implement this approach. This has taken years of planning and consultation, and many fundraisers. We would like to acknowledge the hard work and efforts of families past to help us create this learning space for the future.

Over the last couple of years, there has been some exciting research into the benefits of loose materials and nature play for preschool aged children. This is something that has resonated with our staff, and we feel very passionate about this pedagogical approach. But first, let us explain what these are!

Loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. They are materials with no specific set of directions that can be used alone or combined with other materials. Loose parts can be natural or synthetic. In a preschool outdoor environment we can provide an array of loose parts for use in play: stones, stumps, sand, gravel, fabric, twigs, wood, pallets, balls, buckets, baskets, crates, boxes, logs, rope, tyres, shells, seedpods, just to name a few!

Nature Play is as the title suggests, interactions with nature and natural materials. Nature play is not just outdoor play. Child-initiated and child-directed, it happens in a natural space, like a patch forest or bushland, an overgrown field, the beach, or the unmaintained edges around your yard or neighbourhood. While children might spend time on a playground, this type of play is unlikely to put them into direct contact with nature and offers a different set of benefits. Nature play is children playing with nature and it has many benefits.

Why Loose Parts and Nature Play?

We believe that there are many reasons why play spaces should include a multitude of loose parts and nature, such as:

  • Loose parts and nature play can be used in anyway children choose, and can be adapted and manipulated in many ways.
  • Loose parts and nature play allow children to take risks. Allowing children to take risks helps them to build their independence, confidence, and resilience as they are trusted to make judgements and assess the possibilities of a scenario. Please note that the resources we provide in our environment are checked by staff to ensure safety when using, and close supervision is provided where the risk of injury is greater. We do not want your children to get hurt, however they may experience some ‘learning injuries’ as they use our environment to test their theories, and make assessments and judgments.
  • Children develop a relationship with the environment and learn about sustainable practices, while also developing a sense of respect and responsibility to care for the environment.
  • Loose parts and nature play can be used in combination with other materials to encourage creativity and imagination.
  • Loose parts and nature play encourage children to develop problem-solving skills, and work in collaboration with their peers.
  • Children often choose loose parts and natural materials over fancy toys.

This is an approach we at Happy Valley Kindergarten have been gradually incorporating more and more into our outdoor environment, so in our outdoor learning environment, you will not find much in the way of purpose built play materials. We have noticed the shift in the children’s learning while engaged in this approach to play. We have found that the level of engagement amongst children is extremely high, and it is meaningful play with a reason. The children are engaged in deeper discussions with each other, they are working together much more to plan and create theories and constructions, and solve problems together, as opposed to the play which occurs with purpose build materials that more often than not becomes inappropriate once the purpose has been achieved.

For more information, please speak to a staff member, or some wonderful websites you can visit are:
Nature Play SA
Let the children play