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Ideas to develop your Outdoor Learning Environment…

On Friday, Rock & Rain was fortunate to be asked to judge the winners of the Nursery Outdoor Learning Environment Award hosted by the NMT in London.  I was inspired by the 5 shortlisted nurseries who presented themselves to the judging panel.  The commitment and passion for outdoor learning of all 5 was outstanding.  The common message was that their children play outside everyday all day, regardless of the weather.  That they don’t worry about children getting messy and they’re working with parents to educate them about the benefits of outdoor learning and play.

Children gain enormous benefits from learning outdoors. Ideally they should have access to outdoor space on a daily basis – regardless of all except the worst weather. Being outdoors allows them to move around without many of the restrictions of being inside. They can fill their lungs with clean air and use all of their senses to appreciate the colours, different noises, the sense of space and of scale. Being outdoors supports confidence and allows opportunities for big scale play, problem-solving and creativity in the company of other children. Physical activity is enhanced. So is calculated risk taking. In the outdoors, children’s use of language is five times greater than indoors. Resources don’t need to be expensive.   The outdoors supports active learning and when balanced with quiet areas for reflection can really enhance children’s overall learning experience.

Below, I’ve shared some of the great ideas that I heard from the short-listed nurseries.  I hope that these ideas help to inspire you to be creative as you prepare for the winter weather with your children, at home or in the nursery setting…..

  • mud kitchens made from old appliances and even a toilet!
  • simple sand pits
  • den building with sticks, logs and old sheets
  • playing with bales of hay
  • vegetable growing from seed to dinner plate
  • animal rearing (chickens through to goats!)
  • mark making walls for chalks or paints
  • tractor or car tyres for climbing on
  • glass house made from plastic bottles
  • climbing frames made from offcuts of wood
  • hanging basket making
  • and of course…having appropriate warm and waterproof clothing available for children and staff

During the discussion, I noticed three ways of thinking which seemed to underpin the success of these nurseries as they developed their outdoor learning environments….

1 -child led development of outdoor areas (they really listened for and observed ideas from the children and built on these ideas with the children to develop creative outdoor areas on small budgets)

2 – there was no divide between inside and outside in the mindset of the staff, though their may have been a physical divide.  The staff loved being outside as much as the children, they worked continuously and passionately to remove cultural, physical and mental barriers to enable children to play and learn outside everyday.  They worked with parents to gain their support and help to achieve their goals.

3 -they found creatively ways to integrate the use of technology into outdoor play – apps to identify bird song, children taking photos, record findings, filming activities

I hope that these ideas help you as you develop your outdoor learning environments for the precious children that you care for.


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Will you grow…for the sake of your children?

puddle suit

Well, our first month trading is now complete – and we’ve loved talking to lots of you about your experiences as leaders in the nursery sector. One thing that has stuck in my mind are comments during recent conversations at the NMT Midlands Agenda about how you completely believe in outdoor play, how Ofsted reward you for supplying great outdoor space and that many of you are investing heavily in creating great outdoor environments for your children. In fact at the NMT Midlands Agenda we sat next to Timotay ( and heard about the amazing outdoor spaces that they are creating for nurseries in the UK and further afield.

I’m on a learning journey and I aim to challenge myself at all times to learn as much as possible from all situations. This month has made me really think, provoked further by a few comments from nursery managers combined with my Neuro Linguistic Programme training (that I’ve got running alongside Rock & Rain). The comments that have stuck with me are that I’m hearing that some staff members just don’t seem to be interested in taking children outside. It’s a battle to get them to take your children outside. I really feel for both the resistant staff members and the management team! I know how hard it is to get my children ready for playing outside…toileting, appropriate clothes on, ‘where’s my coat?’, ‘where are the wellies?’, ‘I can’t find my gloves’, ‘suncream on’ multiply this by 30…I can only imagine why it can feel like taking the children outside should go into the ‘too difficult’ pile!

With my NLP hat on, I realise that we all have to take responsibility for this behaviour. The physical and emotional environments we create for our children will form them as they developed during childhood. I also know that what we ‘know’ is comfortable, and changing to some other way is uncomfortable. If we think about the simple equation of ‘cause and effect’, we are the cause of whether or not our children play outside. If we allow ourselves as parents, managers or carers to take the easier path, avoiding the hassle of taking children outside, we’ll never change as individuals and our children will miss out. Without change there is no growth in us as people. It is our own development journey (as parents, carers, managers) that we need to take responsibility for. If we challenge ourselves to change, if we try new things and get the rewards available, we’ll expand our comfort zone, build our confidence and what was once uncomfortable, will become comfortable!

At Rock & Rain, this is exactly what we have done. We aren’t experienced entrepreneurs. We’re just passionate mums who want to give nurseries an option to buy more durable affordable waterproof gear to get more children outside. We know that when our children play outside in the wet and muddy weather in our suits, the tone of the conversation switches from (before the suit) “keep out of the puddles”, “be careful of the mud”, “don’t get those clothes mucky”, “please listen to me when I ask you not to climb on that mucky tree”… (with the suits on..) “go for it”, “get as mucky as you want”, “see if you can make mud angels in that puddle”, “see how high you make the water go when you jump in that puddle”….have freedom…have fun….be children!!!

As a parent, I know which conversation I prefer! Which conversation results in more enjoyment for me observing (and also joining in at times when the puddles are particularly tempting!!) and for my soggy but happy children.

We hope that you find that having a simple tool, like our bright and colourful waterproof suits, available in your nurseries, empowers your staff to enjoy the fantastic outdoor spaces you’re creating for your children, whatever the weather!

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The Kids Rock in all kinds of weather!

What a crazy weather week it’s been here at Rock & Rain HQ! Awesome sunshine, followed by torrential rainfall… and guess what, the kids have loved it all! Aren’t they so lucky to get to truly appreciate what Mother Nature loves to throw our UK way!

They’ve certainly taken this opportunity to get ticking off a few of their top 10 things to do in their rock & rain suits…


Starting with number 6 on their list “A crazy paint fight”. It was sunny & they hadn’t had their suits on for a few days so we thought it was the perfect opportunity to get them back in them! The sheer joy of being set free with paint sent giggles & laughter all the way through the neighbourhood. The grass was a very interesting rainbow pattern for a few days… but hey ho, that’s a minor detail & nothing that the recent torrential rainfall hasn’t already sorted out!


Talking of torrential rainfall… the sunshine certainly didn’t hang around for the Bank Holiday! Suits were back on (with a few paint stains to boot) & taken for a wet & muddy adventure into Hazelborough Woods by Silverstone.

Piper – “the mad mud lover” completed her desire to roll relentlessly in the mud (Number 4 ticked off then…. though I think she’ll keep ticking that one off as often as she can!)

Scout, “Northamptonshire’s biggest worm lover”, was on the hunt for some of her little friends. No joy this time round… but she was quietly appeased by her slug buddy find at the edge of the woods. She took this photo of it hanging out with her sister… she says “can you tell the difference!!?”

puddle wgirls wslug wsailor wden w

Sailor, it turns out likes to eat mud, a lot. Hmmmm… is that a reflection on my cooking!?

A quick den build rounded off a great rainy day in the woods. Can’t wait to see what the weather throws our way over the next couple of weeks… though I think it’ll be a little while before we can tick snow angels off the list!