The outdoor environment is a crucial place for development for young learners. The outdoor area allows for movement, motor enhancement and energy outlets for the early childhood arena. Creating an appropriate outdoor environment takes a great deal of thought and research, however the establishment of such an environment is very important in the success of a preschool program.
The following steps were utilized during the creation of the outdoor environment and childhood activities:
- What are the rules and regulations in Florida on the outdoor space for preschool-aged children?
The Department of Children and Families Code states that for each child in the program a 45 square foot space must be established outside of the actual school environment. The outdoor space must have age-appropriate equipment and must be fenced in from outside traffic. The fence may not be lower than 4 feet and all of the equipment must have appropriate fall zones, such as wood chips or rubber mating.
- What kind of equipment does an outdoor space require?
The equipment outdoor must meet the proper guidelines of DCF code, for example if the ages of children at the center are between 1 and 5, then there must be equipment for use by the 1-year-old child as well as by the 5-year-old child. Upon ordering equipment, all catalogs have a span of ages which the equipment can be appropriately used. The outdoor space must also have fencing to differentiate between the ages or have a time slot of when children go outside. For example, the 1-year-old class has their own outdoor play area or they are outside at a different time from the 5-year-old class, yet the equipment on the playground is age-appropriate for the 1-year-old class, as well as for the 5-year-old class.
- What else besides toys is important to have outside?
The outside playground is used, as per code at least two times a day, therefore it is very important to have the grounds protected from ultra-violet light. Shades from trees and shade structures are also a requirement by the DCF code. 1/3 of the entire play area must be covered by shade to protect young children from the Florida sun. Teachers and staff must also be very cautious during outside play and childhood activities to utilized sun-block and sun-hats for the very young.
- What should an outdoor environment NOT have?
It is crucial for staff and administration to daily check the playground space because hazardous or sharp materials may be thrown into the outdoor space. Young children like to explore and the dangers of exploring such materials may be deadly, therefore a daily check of the outside space is very important to protect the health and safety of all the children in the center.
Curtis, D, & Carter, M. (2007). Learning together with young children: A curriculum
framework for reflective teachers. New York: Redleaf Press.