Enabling Environments in Early Years Settings

The Coniston Wall Mounted Canopy installed at Bramford Pre-School Playgroup in Bramford, SuffolkOne of the over arching principles of the Early Years curriculum is ‘Enabling Environments’. This reinforces the importance of having a place where children can access the curriculum as a whole without being restricted by weather constraints.

The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage states:
“Children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs”

Children can learn in lots of different ways. Some learn best by observing, some by listening and some by doing. For kinaesthetic learners an outdoor area is essential but it also benefits audio and visual learners too as there are many activities that just work best outside. Children can investigate, explore and act out ideas on a large scale with no limitations on space.

“I therefore recommend that playing and exploring, active learning, and creating and thinking critically, are highlighted in the EYFS as three characteristics of effective teaching and learning, describing how children learn across a wide range of activities.” – The Early Years: Foundations for life, Health and Learning – An Independent Report on the Early Years
Foundation Stage to Her Majesty’s Government, Dame Clare Tickell, 2011

Many of our customers contact us because they need to create a useable outdoor area that can support and encourage outdoor play and learning. One particular example of this was a teacher who contacted us requesting a quotation for a canopy because they found that in their current environment the Characteristics of Effective Learning were difficult to observe in enough detail due to restrictions imposed by the weather. Their outdoor classroom had little shelter and the soft surface could not be gritted when it was frosty, meaning it couldn’t be used in icy conditions.

Due to lack of shelter in the outdoor area, the children were forced to leave their creations and ideas behind if it started to rain or became too hot. They would then have to try to pick up where they left off when the weather allowed them to go outside again. Although a “drying off time” was also sometimes needed, if the items the children were using were too wet or soggy to use straight away. And during moving everyone inside and then back outside the teacher simply said that the “moment was lost”.

Here’s what the teacher said about the difficulty in conducting outdoor learning in wet weather:

“It is difficult to utilise an outdoor classroom when it is raining as this limits the types of activities we are able to organise. Drawing, painting and collage are out of the question because paper will be too soggy. Other fine motor skills activities are also limited. Threading pasta for a necklace or picking up rice with tweezers in a race to fill containers or making play dough are just some of the activities that can’t be planned in case the resources become too wet. No one likes sticky play dough! Sand pits are also difficult to plan for as there is no variation in wet and dry sand. It can also become very smelly if wet for too long. ”

A canopy enables children to access the full curriculum despite the British weather. Children learn best in an environment that encourages them to be independent learners and have the opportunity to learn both inside and outside. Many children prefer to learn outside, and by having shelter learning providers can ensure that these children are not stifled by being kept indoors and that they are meeting all of the children’s needs.

The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile Handbook also highlights the benefits that an outdoor area delivers: “[some] children may be highly active and more likely to demonstrate what they know, understand and can do in situations which are sympathetic to this inclination, often outdoors.” Early Years Foundation Stage Profile Handbook, 2012

With a canopy children can explore sound without worrying about being too loud. They can develop their gross motor skills without fear of hurting themselves or others in a small space. They can care for creatures that live outside and observe them in their natural habitats. They can explore sand and water in a safe place where the ground won’t become slippery and dangerous. And they are able to do all of these things even if it is raining.

The Coniston Wall Mounted Canopy installed at Holy Family RC Primary School in Cardiff

To find out more about our Early Years canopies, speak to one of our Customer Advisors today on 0800 389 9072 or download our brochure for more information

Download our canopy shelter and shade sail brochure

Able Canopies Ltd. design, manufacture and install canopies and shade structures
at schools, nurseries and educational settings to enable year-round
Free Flow Outdoor Play and Outdoor Learning.
For more information please contact us

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Rachel is Able Canopies' previous Marketing Coordinator, she is an advocate of outdoor learning and the benefits the outdoor brings to all.

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