Reflection on Outside Play in Early Childhood

Reflecting upon your visit consider how pioneering ideas are evident in current outside play in early childhood.
This essay will reflect upon my time in Everton and explore my key observations during the heuristic play outdoors. Through observing children during heuristic play first-hand I was made aware on the significance of Elinor Goldschmid due to her creating the concept of the key person, which is so crucial for today’s practice. Her heuristic play offers children to explore and to see how they behave within their natural environment, in order for children to explore, there must be a range of material set around the outdoor space to represent the real world (Bruce, T. 2011). In this essay I will touch on children’s development being the prime areas of learning and the specifc areas: communication, physical, personal, social and emotional development. Specific areas: literacy, mathematics, understanding the world and expressive arts and designs along with different types of play that I did observe during my visit such as: construction and sensory. Interconnecting with, how key theorist and pioneers interconnected with the observation I made and experiencing these ideas first-hand. The pioneers and theorist I will include are: Froebel, Mcmillian sisters, Steiner, Piaget, Bronfenbrenner, Bandura and the EYFS. These clear links to the pioneers and theorist will help me develop sufficient concepts that acknowledge children development, individual needs as well as outdoor play. Within this essay I will also, touch on the inequalities and sustainability: environmentally, socially, economically.

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Durning my visit at Everton I observed children participate in heuristic play outdoors. Four children sustained interest in construction play, which involved wooden blocks and the children were able to explore and play with these blocks freely. I noticed these children use the wooden blocks to create a see-saw, also build wooden towers, which links in the Froelian approach. According to Froebel outdoor play are key aspects to children learning, his gifts and occupations were put in place for children to freely explore and create what they want (Flannery, S. 2013). Froebel also, stressed the importance of early years practitioners to observe children, offer them freedom through their environment (The British Association for Early Childhood Education, 2019). Self- discipline is also, a Froebelian principle, I saw this principle in practice on my visit on Everton (Bruce, T. 2015). This principle was presented when two children within the construction area had a disagreement and these two children were encouraged to sort it out their selves. This helps promote independence and for children not to get relented on adult intervention. A negative to this approach could be that children may feel discouraged to go to their practitioners for any support or guidance because they may feel that they won’t be taken seriously.
Learning rich environment was displayed on my visit to Everton, due to children playing with recycled materials, which is economic sustainable. These recycled materials included: tubes, crates, pots, pans and old wooden materials which are all properties that present the real world, through the use of variety materials children were able to develop new play schemas (DCELLS, 2008). The children who attended Everton nursery all had access to waterproof clothing to ensure each child could participate in all activities as well as experience all weathers. This is particularly important because it ensure that the nursery have an inclusive curriculum, in order to show children, they are all equal, regardless of gender, race or social background, which enhances social sustainability. Everton is one of the poorest areas in Liverpool, it is hugely significant that all children have the same access to sunshine, fresh air and nourishment, which the Mcmillian sisters ensured was put in place (Jarvis, P. Leibovich, B. 2015). The Mcmillian sister still have such a great influence on today’s practice, due to the Mcmillian sister arguing that all schools should provide free school meals to children with a more deprived background because children can’t learn without the correct nourishment (Simkin, J., 2016).
Following the idea of environment and how children learn through their experiences, Steiner’s pioneering ideas was present on my visit through children on visit expressing their individual characteristics within a group of their age. I was quick to learn on my visit that the class was mixed in ages of three to four year old, so they can learn from each and older children lead by example. This relates to Steiner because through older interaction children will be able to develop freely when becoming more intellectually developed (Howard, S. 2012). Steiner also encourages children to use real life materials along with children learning through imitation, which interconnects with Banduras theory of social learning. Although, heuristic play allows children to control the rate of their learning according to Steiner however, on my observation I did notice that the outdoor area did consist of blind spot. Therefore, children learning through their environment is significant, but practitioners should always ensure a child is at view at all times.
From studying these observations of the three to four-year old’s I was able to make links to children overall development, but personal, social and emotional development in particular. Within my time at Everton I observed a little boy constantly trying to get the attention of another child, by trying to snatch the tube from the little boy’s mouth, which caused a dispute between the two boys. The reason for this child to attention seek is because the child could have seen this type of behaviour at home through siblings or could be the only child and the parents or careers are often working long hours, so the child craves attention, which comes across in the wrong way. Current research suggests that boys tend to be more verbally and physically aggressive compared to girls (Dowling, M. 2010), this could be due to the fact that it was evolutionary beneficial for males to be aggressive as this would show their ability to protect their offspring and their dominance. Therefore, the boy within my observation could be displaying this evolutionary traits. This relates to the theoretical approach of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory due to the fact that children have individual needs, which makes them unique therefore, depending on their ecosystem emphasis how children may react differently (Gray, C., Macblain, S., 2014).
Following this, physical development is a very substantial element to a child’s growth. Everton offered a range of different activities that facilitated the growth of physical development for example, there were monkey bars, obstacle course and a wooden weaved arch to allow the children to run under and explore their natural environment. Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS, 2017) states that children should be provided with a plethora of opportunities to enhance their physical development as well as giving children basic knowledge on the significance of physical activities as well as, making healthier food choices. The implications on the (EYFS, 2017) that it is very limited on talking about the access to the outdoors whereas, the (EYFS, 2008) framework goes in much more depth with the exploration on indoors and outdoor play.
Following on the topic of development sensory play is key to any child’s holistic development, but more meaningful for special educational needs (SEN) children. I was made aware during my visit that there were eight children with special educational needs and they sustain more of an interest in sensory play for example, the exploration of leaves and twigs but some children did struggle to go off and play due to it being too overwhelming for them to do so. Children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) have very strong schemas, which sometimes make it very difficult to interact with children and build positive relationships, hence why sensory play being very calming and beneficial to ASD children. Sensory play is a huge way stimulate the children with ASD within Everton to truly enhances and benefits their learning experiences however, this does differs from the children who have trouble with their sensory receptors, so the children can over respond to their sense and distress the child when doing so (Brodie, K., 2017). Piaget theory of cognitive development demonstrates the importance of schemas, which SEN children strongly present. Even though, Piaget stressed the importance of schemas he did believe that all cognitive development is a steady rate and all children development in their own time (Mcleod, S.A 2018). Everton did acknowledge the theory of Piaget due practitioners having a key understanding of schemas and children learn at different rates. However, Everton didn’t have the key resource to really support the children with SEN due to the lack of funds even though, practitioner implement this theory in their daily activities the children can’t really adapt and adjust to their schemas due to the lack of funds for that one to one support.
As for the whole child holistic development is vital the (EYFS, 2017) three prime areas and four specific areas, the prime areas already stated, as for the specific literacy is key because this is when the child initially learns how to speak, through communication development. Numeracy is another specific area of learning and a key attribute that was displayed within the heuristic play through children counting the tyres on the ground or how many flowers they could see. Understanding the world was a big area of learning that was displayed during my time at Everton because heuristic play key element is allowing the child to really interconnect with the world around and enhancing the values of being more sustainable to look after and be more in touch with their world. Expressive arts and design was a fundamental factor within heuristic play because this area of learning allowed the children to free in what they wanted to explore through the variety materials that was set out and experimenting the different textures, these materials had to offer. The children could also be imaginative in what they wanted to create and how they wanted to play with these materials thorough the use of role play.
Overall, this essay highlights the observations made from my visit to Everton Nursery and through these observations I was able to make connections to the environment and how it supports children’s learning. Through my finding I was able to make interconnect my observations to key pioneers and theorist through my first-hand experiences. Through reflecting on my visit, I was able to learn more about heuristic play as well as strengthening my understanding on children development and how they learn through their outside environment. I also gained a clear perspective on how children with SEN deal with heuristic play because of some many things happening at once and children with these needs having very strong schemas can be very overwhelming for the child. I was quick to learn that observations are a key aspects to outdoor heuristic play, the reason for this is because children learn best when their play interest are met they take more an interest on what they’re doing. Overall, I acknowledge that through having heuristic play outdoors children were really able to develop a more learning enrich environment through the outdoors space. The essay provides examples of my observations and how I saw key pioneers in current practice and how their influence is still used in current practice and being able to recognise the impact.
Therefore, my trip to Everton has enabled me to further my understanding on children’s behaviour when dealing with disputes and how practitioner’s did so little to intervene when it was happening because they believed that the children should deal with their encountered problems as independently as possible, because it teaches children critical concept of problem-solving skills. This allows both practitioner and children to provide opportunities to increase their capacity analyse and resolve any given issue.

Bruce, T. (2015) A Froebelian Principled Approach to Early Childhood Education in Practice (online) Available: [Accessed: 30th November 2019] 
Bruce, T. (2011) Learning Through Play, 2nd Edition. London: Hodder Education. 
Dowling, M. (2010) Young Children’s Personal, Social & Emotional Development, 3rd edition. London: SAGE 
Flannery, S. (2013) Froebel’s Gifts. London: University of Roehampton 
Gray, C., Macblain, S. (2014) Learning Theories in Childhood London: SAGE 
Brodie, K. (2017) sensory processing and children with autism [blog], 8th April 2017.  Available at: [Accessed: 20th November 2019] 
Howard, S. (2012) Free to Learn. 2nd Edition. Lynne Oldfield 
Hughes, A.M. (2016) Developing Play For The Under 3’s: The Treasure Basket and Heuristic Play. 3rd ed. London and New York: Routledge 
Jarvis, P., Liebovich, B. (2015) Women’s History Review (online), v24. (24), p. 917-94 Available: [Accessed 1st December 2019] 
Mcleod, S.A. (2018) jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development. Simply Psychology [online]  Available at: [Accessed 3rd December 2019] 
Santer, J., Griffiths, C., Goodall, D. (2007) Free Play in Early Childhood. London: National Children’s Bureau 
Spartacus Educational, (1997) Margaret Mcmillan [online] February 2015 Available at: [Accessed: 3rd December 2019] 
The British Association for Early Childhood, 2019. About Froebel (online) Available at: [Accessed: 30th November 2019] 
4esnews (2017) Exploration Through Heuristic and Loose Parts Play Available at: [Accessed: 28th November 2019] 


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