fbpx The role of outdoor play in cognitive development for Early Years - Pilgrims Pre-Preparatory School, Bedford

The role of outdoor play in cognitive development for Early Years

Posted on 12th of April 2024

As we welcome spring, we are looking forward to taking our learning and play outdoors even more – we can’t wait to see what we will discover!

Here, our Headteacher, Jo Webster, explains the role of outdoor play in cognitive development for Early Years.

With the clocks going forward and the change of the seasons upon us, we are definitely experiencing spring here at Pilgrims.

Our outdoor areas are beginning to look green and fresh, and our wildlife pond is brimming with new life.

The great outdoors offers endless opportunities for exploration, creativity and learning for our children. From running around the school field to playing in our mud kitchen, outdoor play not only promotes physical health but also plays a crucial role in cognitive development.

Enhancing cognitive skills

Engaging in outdoor play promotes the development of various cognitive skills which are essential for our Early Years learners.

For example, navigating uneven terrain and climbing structures helps improve spatial awareness and problem-solving abilities.

Playing with natural materials such as sand, water and sticks stimulates creativity and imagination.

Outdoor play fosters a sense of resilience and adaptability as children learn to navigate unpredictable environments and overcome challenges.

Social and emotional development

Beyond cognitive development, outdoor play also supports social and emotional growth.

Outdoor spaces provide lots of opportunities for cooperative play, communication and conflict resolution.

Whether it’s negotiating roles in a pretend play scenario or working together to build a den, children learn important social skills that are crucial for forming friendships and navigating social interactions.

Encouraging curiosity and exploration

Outdoor play encourages children to ask questions, explore their surroundings and make discoveries independently.

Unlike structured indoor activities, outdoor play allows children to follow their curiosity and discover things which interest them.

Whether it’s observing insects, building forts or collecting rocks, these experiences foster a sense of wonder and curiosity that lays the foundation for a lifelong love of learning.

How Pilgrims supports outdoor play and learning

Our curriculum is divided between indoor and outdoor learning and is designed to encourage the children’s imagination and creativity.

One of our school values is ‘curiosity’ and our curriculum is built on this basis. From growing fruit and vegetables to going on sensory walks, and from den-building and mini beast hunts on the field to climbing trees – it all happens at Pilgrims!

We are also proud to be a Forest School. The Forest School approach uses the natural environment and outdoor facilities to offer children an alternative approach to learning. We aim to inspire the children to build a respect for nature and a passion for the outdoors.

We are also extremely fortunate to have our own school pond and wildlife area for the children to discover new creatures and learn about plant life.

The outdoors provides our children with a rich and dynamic learning space. Unlike indoor settings, the outdoors is constantly changing, creating curiosity and opportunity for lots of things to be discovered.

From fostering exploration to enhancing cognitive skills and promoting social-emotional development, outdoor play offers a multitude of benefits for Early Years children.

Learn more about our curriculum here.