Children need to build up their knowledge and familiarity with the real world in order to develop an understanding of it. Often, when we think of play, we see it as an imitation of adulthood, rather than a development phase within its own right. This can lead to artificial and closed-ended play experiences (Connell & McCarthy, 2015).
Evidence points to the importance of open-ended, uninterrupted, and real-world play, which enhances learning and development. Children need opportunities to assimilate all their life experiences by interacting within and beyond the traditional early learning environment. When we talk of outings, our initial thoughts turn to big trips or visits to far-away landmarks. As fun, exhausting, and valuable as these trips may be, they don’t often provide a ‘real world’ context for children. Much more can be gained from those outings that we might see as mundane or basic but happen regularly (“little & often”), for example, a short walk around the nursery neighbourhood, a trip to the shops, or eco warrior litter picking.
An outing is any venture beyond the setting, no matter how near, far, short, or long that has the purpose of enabling children to build up their knowledge and familiarity with the real world. The below case study will demonstrate this definition:
Burt’s Bee’s nursery is located directly next to a car park which also serves as the fire drill meeting point. This outing occurs every month and provides the key people with an opportunity to teach the children about safety. The children are often eager to talk about ways of keeping safe in the car park, which prompted a discussion around keeping safe whilst crossing roads. Some children shared how much they love pressing the crossing button and talked about the “green man”, whilst others shared their apprehension at crossing the road. They key people asked the children if they would like to go on a safety walk and introduced them to the green cross code. Another group of children talked about their parents who drove cars and a key person opened her car doors so that the children could talk about the features inside the car that keep us safe, for example, seat belts and mirrors.
Children also benefit from the interactions of visitors beyond the setting. Again, when we think of this, we tend to think of “people who help us”, but this can be quite sporadic or themed. It is important to recognise the many community interactions we engage in on a daily basis (even in modern society). Whether it be the postman delivering his letters and saying hello to the children, or the weekly food delivery: every visitor holds a possibility for learning. The below case study will demonstrate this:
Neal’s Yard nursery has a weekly food delivery from a local supermarket. The children are often fascinated by this and stand at the window intrigued by how many crates the delivery lady has. One day, the key person asked whether the crates could be dropped into the pre-school room, so she could gather a team of children to sort the food into category boxes. She explained that the lady had other deliveries, so the children would need to work together to complete the task quite quickly. The children asked a number of questions about the lady’s job and asked her name. When she had left, the children commented that they hoped she would be their delivery person every week but if not, they would learn the names of all the delivery people.
The above examples are simply a prompt to get you thinking about your own setting’s context. Using the additional legacy materials, it is useful to build your own bank of knowledge on relevant outings and visits.