Toddlers thrive outdoors too!

Early Childhood Outdoors seeks to make links and collaborate with organisations and companies sharing the mission to increase the amount and quality of outdoor experience children from birth to seven have in their daily lives.  Through liaising with a wide range of ‘collaborators’ our aim is to enhance each other’s work, enabling and supporting however we can.

Dipping once again into Siren Films’ multi-award-winning Early Years Clip Library, we continue our collaboration with the second in a series of video clips revealing the richness of possibility available through simple outdoor experiences during the second year of life – thanks Katrina.

Siren Films will be exhibiting at both the ‘Where are the Babies?’ Froebel Trust/ECO research seminar on Friday 27th March and our ECO annual professional gathering in Sheffield on Saturday 28th March 2020. 

They’ll be offering a fabulous discount on the three wonderful hour-long training films, Babies Outdoors, Toddlers Outdoors and Two Year-olds Outdoors (which received the Nursery World staff resources award in 2012) – each DVD also comes with extensive support notes by Professor Jan White.

The special nature of the outdoors 

Watching the incredibly rich experiences Liam has with his Mum in the garden, the park and the small lane behind their house, it is clear that the outdoors offers many things that add greatly to what the indoors can offer – it is a very different place for children to be in. It’s a very worthwhile exercise to analyse the special nature of the outdoors. It is complex and multi-layered and it takes time to fully appreciate, but young children are very tuned into these differences.

Liam’s Mum has experienced the value of taking him outside every single day as part of their routine – he thrives on these experiences and his well-being is served also by his certainty that he will be able to go outside whatever the weather or time of year.  She also gains by having time with Liam where he is fully engaged, enlivened and responsive to her, which is fulfilling for both of them and helping to deepen the relationship they have with each other. Every day is different and new, and all weather is good for toddler exploration, discovery, experience and development.  During this year, children are developing at such a rapid rate that they cannot wait through the winter for ‘good weather’ – they need the richness of this environment every day of their lives.

The right stuff 

The outdoor environments that Liam has daily access to contain just the right materials to best support his thinking and development. They are part of the real world, so they are of great interest to him. They are highly sensory, providing stimulation for several senses at once. They are open-ended, non-prescribed and abundant, so he can do what he wants with them.

We provide materials like these indoors, such as sand and water, as they are very effective as learning tools, but toddlers are then severely constrained in the ways they can use them. In the outdoors they can be accessed in much richer ways, they can be:

  • picked, gathered, collected and piled up;
  • moved around from one place to another;
  • dipped and dropped, rolled and dumped;
  • mixed and stirred; they can be sat in and stood on;
  • felt and experienced with the whole body;
  • present in great quantities;
  • they change with the weather and the season and they are there every day to come back to over and over again.

Natural materials are the richest source of interest and possibility for young children outdoors, they are where they belong and where they have the most to offer by interacting with all the other things in this environment.


Adult support and interaction 

At this time of his life, Liam relies on adults to keep him safe, but although popular opinion has it that children of this age have no sense of danger, it is apparent that he checks frequently with his safe base that what he is doing will not cause him harm – this is an inbuilt survival strategy that adults can make good use of!  As well as providing a strong safe base for Liam’s well-being and exploration, the adult in this sequence is providing just the right style and amount of support and interaction. She knows Liam very well and is very aware of what interests him, what he wants to do and how he needs to do it. She supports him from a distance that keeps him secure but that gives him lots of room to follow his own ideas.

Most importantly for this age group, she very consciously goes at his pace, allowing him enough time to work through whatever it is that occupies him, and to return to these on a daily basis until he is ready to move on. This approach is nicely captured in the term ‘slowliness’, and allowing toddlers to take their time is an important element of appropriate practice. The outdoor world is so full of interest and opportunity for toddlers, and they have so much that they need to be working on for themselves that they must not be hurried, time-limited or moved on in their learning too quickly.

“The more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think the same is true of human beings.” [Thoreau]

Click on image to play or click here to see ‘Liam Explores the Garden’

This clip is part of the Early Years Clip Library from Siren Films, which is an extensive collection of high-quality training videos. The short clips have been created from Siren’s tried and tested back catalogue and also includes hundreds of new clips films filmed in early years settings around the country.

Real life video examples of child behaviours are an asset for training anyone involved in the support and development of children during their formative years from 0 – 5 years (and beyond). Clips come with additional information, prompts and reflection questions to provide support and guidance to making fitting clips into your course simple.  If a picture paints a thousand words, video provides the added dimension that brings theory and concepts to life. At a time when placements are increasingly difficult to arrange, being able to study children in detail, in situations where they feel most comfortable is crucial.

The Early Years Clip Library is updated with new material frequently and you, your team and your students will have access to any new material with your active license.  There are lots of options to access the clip library and you can start view pricing information and get started with a free 1-month trial here. Or get in touch with Katrina at and I can help you with the best option to suit your needs.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *