How the Outdoors can be Beneficial for Children with Special Educational Needs


Did you know that spending time outdoors has been proven to be beneficial in engaging children with Special Education Needs (SEN).

Freedom to move in a therapeutic, stimulating outdoor environment makes for healthier, happier children. Children with Special Educational Needs face an entire range of different and specific challenges. The outdoors not only supports life skills such as, resilience, problem solving and self-confidence, but can have a positive impact in enhancing behaviour’s and social interactions. The research is incredible!


It is vital that all children, including those with additional needs are experiencing the wonderful world of exploration and sensory play outdoors. This will provide them with new exciting experiences to learn and develop in a informal way. The fresh air and open space can release any potential stress or anxiety in young children, in comparison to a busy indoor environment. Simply moving outside to a wide open space will expend their energy and allow children to feel calmer, settle and refocus through creativity and exploration.

“Children cannot bounce off the walls if we take away the walls” 

Erin Kenny.


So Much More than ‘Just’ Playing

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” – Fred Rodgers.

Play is a huge part of a child’s life and is the main way in which they will learn and develop. They become engrossed in play as it focuses on their own interests, something they have chosen to do. Children begin to develop skills for life through play, such as language, emotional understanding, creativity and social skills by mirroring behaviours from their peers and adults. Play can support children to be adventurous, take risks and become imaginative. Every play experience is fun and exciting! Play is also where children will learn how to problem solve independently and may work with their peers to do so.

At Little Owls children learn through play every hour of the day, this might be child led or through ‘Planning In The Moment’. We as staff aim to extend each child’s learning by making some small input into their play. For example, this week the children were roleplaying “ice-cream shops” so staff added shaving foam into the resources which allowed the children’s to extend the sensory experience. This led to further discussion about the number of scoops children were giving out and encouraged the children to find different sized bowls to hold their “ice creams”.



‘Let’s Get Out in the Rain’

There is no such thing as a ‘miserable day’. As adults it can be hard to resist saying the classic term, ‘What a miserable rainy day’, young children will pick up on nature been talked about in a negative way. Rain is fun, inviting and educational for children. We can experience all four seasons, what might happen to the trees and the leaves starting up curiosity. This can lead to discussions on clouds, how the rain feels for them, just watch their vocabulary expand and broaden.

Within water play children learn such a lot, filling and emptying buckets can encourage maths while having fun. At our woodland setting we recently had a rainy day, we saw the opportunity to also get the hose pipe out. The children had great fun splashing in puddles, making mud pies and filling up containers. The learning opportunities were endless!

We can discuss with children what might we wear for a raining day to help keep us dry and warm. Take a look at the video for some handy top tips on outdoor waterproof clothing. Thank you to Northern Ireland Forest School Association for a great clip.

We are children’s models, let’s think positive about ALL weathers, ‘Let’s get out in the rain’.

‘We will write when we are ready!’ The Fundamental Skills of Writing in Early Years

“Look at the differences between a typical preschool child’s hand (left) and a typical 7 year old hand (right). Want to know why a preschool aged child isn’t able to write yet? This is why! Their hands are still developing and are not fully formed. So what should they be doing to support this? PLAY!! Playdough, colouring, cutting, gluing, playing outside, digging in dirt, sensory play, dress up play, science experiments, beading, puzzles, throwing balls, etc. All of these things help their hands develop. When they are physically ready to write, they will! No need to rush them, they will show you when they are ready!        (Facebook: Raising her barefoot)


Children require progressive development in their hands, just like with any other muscle they need to train and strengthen. Children grasp and hold objects which in turn will lead to holding a pencil to write. ‘Funky Finger’ Challenges are a part of our daily activities with Little Owls. We thread beads, use tweezers, build with building blocks and many more. This is through play using the children’s interests at the time. We should not rush children into been able to write using a pencil, it will happen in their own time when they are ready.

The Outdoor Environment and ‘Risky Play’

“The benefits of risk taking include extending skills, developing physical and emotional capacities, challenging ourselves in new ways and gaining direct experience of the consequences of our actions. Being brave an conquering a fear is something that is very important to children and a sign of growth.”

Being in the outdoor environment allows children to experience ‘risk’, more so than when indoors. Children learn from possible falls and begin to think, ‘what might happen next?, ‘If I do this I will….’, empowering them to make purposeful decisions. For example, at Little Owl’s woodland the children were involved in making a slide from cable reals and wood. They had to communicate ideas to each other practicing their social skills. They tested their strategies taking a risk by experimenting, problem solving, and critical thinking. The experience also challenged their physical capabilities. The children were able to reflect and evaluate through this experience to reach their goal.

The risk and challenge children take in their early years will set them up in later life to become confident and self-aware, motivating them to reach their full potential.

Lest we forget. Remembrance Day 2020

We have supported and taught our children all about Remembrance day and the special meaning of the ‘Poppy’ across our Little Owl setting’s this week. We have been honouring those who fought in our war and how this became a very important day in history.

Here are some of the activities our children have been participating in this week to help think and remember. All the children were very proud of their artwork. Don’t you think they look amazing!