Outdoor Learning & Play – Why bother?

rain photo
Photo by grongar

Outdoor Learning & Play – Why bother?

It’s a hassle

Do you remember the time you really wanted to get outside with your class or group of children and the sky darkened?
What did you do?
Chances are you mentally pictured a bunch of wet kids (and hours down the road a bunch of annoyed parents) and did u turn and switched to some more covered or indoor activity.
It’s understandable that that becomes the instinctive reaction because:

  • most of us have grown up in a country where rain stopped play is part of the national identity (along with the wrong sort of leaves on the line stopping the trains)
  • most schools and children’s groups lack the basics when it comes to getting outside

Is that really the problem?

As a parent 12 years ago, I found that really frustrating. Surely the benefits outweighed the down side of my children getting a bit wet and a bit muddy?

I spoke to parents, I looked on forums online I asked everybody I knew if they could see the benefits of learning and playing outside for children.

I created massive lists to convince people to let my children and everybody’s children be outside, year round.

The evidence stacked up from round the globe:

  • Children are drawn naturally (without any interference from us) to earth, water, air and fire. Given the chance and opportunity they will learn and play for hours
  • Self belief, learning capacity, personal confidence, enthusiasm, communication and problem-solving ability, social awareness and emotional well-being all improve when children get outside or are taught outside regularly
  • Children learn to appreciate the environment and get a sense for how what we do impacts the environment
  • It addresses educational inequality –  getting outside positively re-motivates some children who just don’t get on in a traditional indoor classroom

and so it went on…. there’s masses of research to be found here too, on the site of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom

and then the penny dropped.

It’s about the right tools for the job

It’s not about enthusiasm for outdoor learning and play it’s about the right tools for the job. The why is not the problem. It came down to the how.

Most teachers want more outdoors

Most teachers deeply value outdoor activity, learning or play but are just not equipped properly to deliver on it. I owed the world an apology.

Time to change focus. That’s when 12 years ago I stopped the why preaching and began to focus on the how to make it happen practically for enthusiastic schools, forest schools, groups and classes.

When I listened to teachers and joined their forums online I found the focus was on things like:

  • what clothes are strong enough to survive in schools?
  • what’s better – all in one suits or 2 pieces or bib and brace?
  • should I invest in waterproofs which are also breathable and windproof?
  • is it false economy to buy a cheaper waterproof suit in order to kit out the entire year group?

Those questions 12 years ago informed our business development and led to the Adventure Togs Schools & Groups Clothing Audit. This is a simple checklist for schools and groups to see if you’re properly equipped:

Adventure Togs Schools & Groups Clothing Audit

Does my school:

1. Have wellies available for all children? YES / NO
2. Have waterproof suits for all children? YES / NO
3. Require children to wear a sun hat? YES / NO
4. Require children to bring their own sunscreen into school? YES / NO
5. Have extra clothing available for layering in cold weather? YES / NO

With the right tools anything is possible.

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”

If you want to find out how Adventure Togs can support your school, forest school or group get in touch with Catherine Graham.

01639 689183

sales@adventuretogs.co.uk

 

158c8cb.jpg

Catherine Graham

Director

Adventure Togs

 

Catherine Graham is the director of Adventure Togs. She was a health care professional for over 20 years and has a Forest Schools Level 1 qualification. As a mother she struggled to get the best out of outdoor learning and play because most children’s outdoor clothing just wasn’t up to the job.

Adventure Togs from Port Talbot, South Wales, make it easy for schools, and groups to find the right sort of clothing for children to learn and play in.

Why we choose and value our outdoor clothing suppliers

Message to teachers, administrators and group leaders: Why we choose and value our outdoor clothing suppliers.

For schools or educational groups the critical side of service delivery is making sure you work with reliable, consistent and quality focused suppliers.

It’s the hidden side of what you do.

Like life, most of the heroes stay in the back ground.

If you’re involved with making sure the right tools, equipment or clothing are in place you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about – you get thanked and then forgotten.

And you know what? Getting forgotten is a good thing – it means you did a good job, the right job that needed doing, not a job that has to be done again in 6 months.

In real life finding the heroes to walk the (wet and muddy) path with you is always a challenge.

Quality Outdoor Children’s Clothing

2 brands stick out for us as heroes; the UK based Togz brand of children’s outdoor clothing and Mikk-line a Danish brand of children’s outdoor clothing.

They should both be of special interest to teachers and project leaders (and all the unsung heroes) because they specifically make children’s outdoor clothing.

They don’t do adult ranges.

This means that the clothes are cut specifically for kids with features unique to children’s needs. They’re not cut down versions of adult styles. To labour a point – they work for kids.

Mikk-line Outdoor Clothing

We’ve been stocking Mikk-line for around 6 years now. The practicality of the Mikk-line clothes grabs you immediately.

They reminded me of my brother teaching in a very wet November Helsinki, 19 years ago. The children were snug and happy outdoors despite the cold and wet. The contrast of their bright and fun colours to my memory of our dark and sombre waterproofs in the UK was stunning. So advanced, so long ago.

When Louise from Mikk-line contacted me I knew that this was a range of products that would work perfectly for the UK schools market – our tests confirmed this. This is a diverse brand with a pedigree of harsh climate practicality. If it works in Denmark it’ll work here.

Togz Outdoor Clothing

We began stocking Togz waterproofs back in 2008. Being so robust, the all-in-one’s are perfect for muddy play. The Teflon coating repels the dirt so it’s easy to wash away and the attention to detail gives great fit.

We came to love Togz clothing after listening to what was happening in several schools. Many schools approached us with the same story – the clothing they’d purchased was not up to the school job. They felt they had wasted money in the past and were now prepared to spend a little more on a longer term solution.

The Togz All-in-One suit proved to be massively popular because it is keenly priced and hard wearing. Because the suit comes in 3 colourways we were able to offer a colour per size. This means the children always know what colour suit they wear! Really helpful for teachers. Our relationship with Togz took off from there – 2 partners solving a problem.

Durability

Teachers rarely need to replace these outdoor suits and clothes, it’s mostly about providing extra sets for new children joining the school or group.

Although we work mostly with schools and groups directly it would be daft not to mention that both Mikk-line and Togz outdoor clothes work well outside of school too.

The Warm & Dry Suits are popular for winter and are often purchased for skiing holidays as a snowsuit for toddlers. The Warm & Dry Jacket makes an excellent school coat and the Mikk-line Rain Suit is perfect for rainy family days out and festivals.

The Range of Outdoor Clothing

If you’re a teacher, group leader, buyer or administrator then Adventure Togs has done the hard work for you. We can supply direct to you:

Kids waterproof all in one suits

Kids waterproof sets of jackets and trousers

Kids waterproof over trousers and dungarees

Kids waterproof jackets

Waterproof mittens, sun hats and outdoor accessories

Craftwear for outdoor or classroom use

 

Adventure Togs are passionate about what they do and Mikk-Line are proud to support them.

Louise Bushell | UK Agent: Mikk-line Denmark

This belief in a healthy childhood that Adventure Togs and Togz clothing both stand for is what keeps us moving forward.

Anne Film | Director: Playtogs (Togz)

 

If you want to find out how Adventure Togs can support your school, forest school or group get in touch with Catherine Graham.

01639 689183

sales@adventuretogs.co.uk

 

158c8cb.jpg

Catherine Graham

Director

Adventure Togs

 

Catherine Graham is the director of Adventure Togs. She was a health care professional for over 20 years and has a Forest Schools Level 1 qualification. As a mother she struggled to get the best out of outdoor learning and play because most children’s outdoor clothing just wasn’t up to the job.

Adventure Togs from Port Talbot, South Wales, make it easy for schools, and groups to find the right sort of clothing for children to learn and play in.

The Outdoor Year

What’s The Outdoor Year Calendar?

It’s an online calendar for anybody interested in outdoor and healthy activity.

It’s a bit of inspiration and information for outdoor play & outdoor learning professionals. Importantly, most of the content comes from people at the front line of outdoor learning (you can find out how to contribute to the calendar here). It can be used as a tool to plan outdoor activities around events and national / international celebrations. You can find it here.

This calendar can be used resource for teachers and outdoor play providers to structure their outdoor learning throughout the academic year. We have included national and international awareness days in addition to the usual holidays and celebrations.
There are lots of fun ideas for learning and creative outdoor play.
Want to get involved?
We would love to hear how you have stuctured your own outdoor learning around our calendar. Please share your stories and photos with us!

Upcoming Events

All-in-One Waterproof Suits for Your Child – How To Choose

Children love playing and exploring outdoors and rarely let anything spoil their fun. When it rains, puddles become prime jumping spots, while in the snow there are entire families of snowfolk waiting to be built.

There is no need to let a bit of rain or cold weather stop kids from being
active, especially when the UK is prone to cold and wet spells. In
Scandinavia, school children in Forest Schools are encouraged to play outside every day, no matter the weather.

Why not invest in a good waterproof suit for your little one? The
Adventure Togs team has put together a list of points to consider
when choosing the right waterproof clothing for your child.

Go for maximum cover

Waterproof one-piece suits (also known as all-in-one suits, waterproof
onesies or splash suits) offer head-to-toe cover and prevent cold
from entering through air gaps that are common in separate
items of clothing. They are also more cost-effective and available in a range of fabrics. All-in-one waterproofs are often preferred for younger children over a combination of jacket and trousers.

Check the seams

Choose a 100% waterproof suit with taped seams, which is vital for
preventing water from getting in through the stitching.

Is it breathable?

Ideally, waterproof suits for kids should be breathable. If the item of
clothing is non-breathable, active kids can become hot and sweaty.

Windproofing or weatherproofing?

If you’re after a suit to keep the rain out and your little one dry, a
waterproof material is essential. For longer periods in cold, wet weather, a suit that is both waterproof and windproof will help to keep your child warm.

Teflon coating for protection against dirt

Look out for Teflon-coated fabrics, such as Togz kids waterproof suits which do not allow mud and dirt to penetrate the fabric.

Don’t forget watertight zips

A waterproof coating on the suit will keep the rain out, but
your child could still get wet if the zips aren’t watertight.
Look out for suits and jackets with storm flaps which provide a waterproof cover.

Is it adjustable?

Ensure the ankles and wrists of the suit are elastic or adjustable for a
better fit. There’s nothing worse than water seeping in through
sleeves or wind blowing up hems.

Lightweight & packable

Some designs of waterproof suit are made from lightweight fabric and easily packable. Perfect to pack and store away in a
backpack, when rain is forecast later in the day!

Will your kids want to wear it?

Choose a suit in bright and fun colours, made from a soft and comfortable fabric so your kids will be happy to wear it. Reflective safety strips are also important!

Kids Waterproofs – What Features Should I Look For?

Adventure Togs range of kids waterproofs are perfect for keeping kids dry on wet and windy days. We stock a wide range of quality kids waterproof clothing which are windproof and breathable as well as waterproof.

Children love to play outdoors regardless of the weather and usually don’t mind getting muddy! Parents often worry about keeping them warm and dry and want quality waterproof clothing to protect kids and keep them cosy when playing outdoors.

Our range of outdoor gear comprises of waterproof all-in-one suits, jackets and over-trousers and matching waterproof clothing accessories. We also stock several brands of 2 piece waterproof suits which provide excellent value for parents and teachers when purchasing for outdoor learning and Forest Schools.

What to look out for when purchasing kids waterproofs:

  • Fully waterproof garments with sealed or taped seams to prevent water seeping in.
  • Windproof and breathable (to prevent build up of moisture when kids are running around).
  • No air gaps around the waistline – ensure jackets do not ride up when the child bends over. An all-in-one waterproof suit is perfect as an head to toe kids waterproof.
  • Easy on/off – we want our children to be responsible for dressing themselves so the waterproof clothing needs to be easy to put on and remove without the help of an adult.
  • Reflective strips or pattern – Provides high visibility and therefore safety.
  • Choose lightweight, soft, comfortable fabrics so children can move around freely and play in comfort.
  • Stirrup straps or ankle adjustment so that waterproof trousers don’t ride up the leg.
  • A well fitted hood will not blow down in the wind and keep the ears and head warm and dry.
  • Kids waterproofs should be colourful and fun for kids to wear.

Hose Play

This month’s regular guest post from outdoors mummy blogger, Leila Balin, is all about fun with the garden hose……

Hose Play

Little Man, like most pre-schoolers, loves water play. It is one of his top garden activities, whether it be playing with his water table, helping Daddy wash the cars or a spot of puddle splashing. More recently he has discovered the hose and the fact that he can move water away from the tap with this long green snake has him completely enthralled.

His play started off mimicking his Daddy, pouring the hose over the cars, not so much cleaning as moving the dirt around the bodywork. Then he realised he could clean other things too. Thanks to Daddy, Little Man has a small collection of garden tractors, go karts and scooters, all in various states from brand new to barely worth saving but he adores each and every one of them. Once Little Man cottoned on that he could use the hose to clean these too there was no stopping him. He started off moving from vehicle to vehicle using the hose to clean each one. As he worked his way around them he discovered all sorts of ways he cold make the water flow around the vehicles. Poking the hose into the middle of the go kart wheels he looked like a mechanic changing tyres, fascinated by the change in sound as he moved the hose into and back out of the central holes. He found holes in the plastic tractor engines and watched as the water worked its way through the nooks and crannies of the plastic and out the other side. He then moved onto filling the digger buckets up to the brim and then letting the water crash to the floor as he tipped the tippers. All in all he was there for about 2 hours, completely absorbed and oblivious to anything else happening around him.

As he worked a patch of lower ground slowly filled up to form a lovely big muddy puddle around his feet and once the spell of the hose was broken there was lots of lovely muddy puddle splashing too. I have to admit I did feel a tad guilty about the amount of water little man used during his play but he was getting so much out of it I couldn’t stop him.

Taking the time to stop and watch him gave me a well needed rest but it also took me back to a year or so ago when I would stop and watch far more than I do now. It was glorious too see him so deep in play and watching his personality develop, some of his mannerisms are so like his Dads and his determination comes from me, all combining to mix into his own special little self. Watching him play is such a delight and something I need to take more time to do.

What was the last activity your little one got lost in? Did you stop to watch or did you use the time to get busy? If you got busy I would thoroughly recommend allowing yourself some time just to sit and observe, it really is time well spent.

Leila writes a personal, nature inspired blog at Mud Marvellous Mud. She is passionate about connecting children to nature and writes about her son’s experiences as they explore together. She is trained to Forest Schools and Beach Schools level 3 and is currently studying for an Open University Open Degree.

 

5 Outdoor Easter Games for Kids

5 Outdoor Easter Games

Easter is the perfect time to celebrate the joys of spring and wherever kids are involved boundless energy and enthusiasm for chocolate eggs follows. I’m sure my boys could quite happily consume their own body weight in chocolate over Easter (so could I for that matter!). So here are 5 Outdoor Easter Games that should keep them (and you) busy, and might, just might hold off those chocolate pangs until after they have filled up on a yummy Easter Sunday dinner.

Get messy with some flying eggs. You will need at least two teams of two to play this game. Try pitching the kids against the adults or pull names out of a hat for some random family pairings. Beware though, this one is messy and changes of clothes may be required! Start off with both pairs standing fairly close to each other. Each team starts of with a box of six eggs. Once each pair is ready they start throwing the eggs towards each other. After each successful throw they take a step back. The aim is to get as far away from each other without breaking the egg. Once an egg breaks the team takes another from their six and starts from the same position they left off. The first team to break all their eggs is the loser and the remaining team, who are probably slightly less messy than the losers, usually wins themselves some more chocolate eggs, although you could be a little more adventurous and maybe offer them the chance to egg the other competitors with the eggs they have left over. It probably depends on how messy you really want to get!

Have a go at the good old Easter Egg hunt. These usually require a little bit of preplanning but lets face it, who doesn’t love hunting for treasure in the shape of chocolate. Check out our post Easter Egg Hunt Ideas for some alternatives to the traditional style hunt.

Set up an egg and spoon obstacle race. Make this old favourite slightly more interesting by putting a set of obstacles in the way of the competitors. Hard boiled eggs are often used for these races but spice things up a little and use raw eggs. Again, it could get mucky but hey, it’s bound to be fun!

Have a go at egg rolling races. There are several ways to set this one up. You can use a straight course, give each competitor and spoon and see who can roll their egg to the end the fastest without breaking it. You could create a twisty obstacle course the competitors have to roll their eggs around or you could sack off the spoons and get each competitor to roll their eggs with their noses. This last one has to be the funniest option but also much trickier than you might think.

Run around like hens and chickens! This game is a bit like the popular kids game ‘It’. One person starts off as the Hen, everyone else is chicks. The Hen is placed in the middle of the ‘road’ and the chicks at either end. As the chicks try to make it to the other side the Hen must try to gather up her chicks and keep them safe by catching them. Each one that is caught then has to help their mother Hen catch the rest. This is a brilliant one for letting of some steam after some of the more difficult games and what kid doesn’t love running around like a loopy chicken anyway.

Do you have any favourite Easter games you like to play? We would love to hear about them.

Our favourite outdoor play post from the past week is The Magic of the Secret Beach from the lovely Coombe Mill. The secret beach does sound absolutely magical and holds lots of lovely family memories for her and her children. Do you have a special spot that has stolen your families heart?

Spring is Springing

Spring is springing

March has arrived and with it we are seeing lots of lovely signs of spring, getting us all excited about the year ahead. There is just something about the new life in spring that gets us all motivated and looking forward to the sunshine. The warmer lighter mornings are a sign in themselves that spring is nearly here making those horrid early morning starts just that tiny bit easier. Of course it isn’t all sunshine in spring time, rain is often a common feature at this time of year but without the wet stuff all the lovely flowers, fresh grass and new buds that we love about spring wouldn’t happen. Celebrate the rain this spring with our 10 ways to play in the rain.

One of the first signs we have spotted this year is the pretty little snowdrop, peaking through the ground even in some of the worse weather we have had recently. I don’t know about you, but they remind us of fairy hats and conjure up all sorts of images of spring fairies frolicking about amongst the spring blossom.

We haven’t heard them yet but soon enough the air will be filled with the warm fuzzy buzz of bumble bees, taking full advantage of the early nectar. Queen bees will be out looking for new nests with the buff-tailed bumblebee being one of the first to emerge. I do love standing in the garden on a warm spring morning just listening as their hum is carried along the wind.

Another wonderful sound to hear in spring time is the new burst of birdsong that happens as male birds start to sing for their mates, searching out females to bring up new broods with in just a few weeks time.

Probably one of the most iconic signs of spring is the appearance of newborn lambs in fields across the country. These little cuties remind us all that this really is the time of year that brings about an abundance of new growth. Why not grab your family and head on out around the fields seeing how many you can spot. As the season moves on you will see more and more appear and watching their unsteady antics is sure to make you all go ‘Awwww’.

A lesser known sign of spring is the sight of oil beetles. These little creepy crawlies are becoming quite rare in the UK and have a fascinating lifecycle that relies on solitary bees to survive. Once the larvae hatch they head on up the stem of a nearby flower, lie in wait for an unsuspecting bee, hitch a ride back to their burrow and then feed on their eggs. Not too nice for the bees but necessary to keep the Oil Beetle alive. To find out more about these fascinating little beasties check out Buglife’s Oil Beetle campaign (https://www.buglife.org.uk/campaigns-and-our-work/oil-beetles) and get involved in the Oil Beetle Hunt (https://www.buglife.org.uk/oil-beetle-survey) . We think this is a great way to discover more about our micro wildlife this spring.

What signs of spring have you spotted so far? The brilliant Nature Detectives have some fabulous printable sheets to help you head out with the kiddies and get closer to nature at this time of year – http://www.naturedetectives.org.uk/download/hunt_spring_early.htm

If you are looking for more ideas to help you make the most of the warmer weather and longer days then check out our 10 Ways to Play Outdoors this Spring.

However you choose to enjoy this spring we would love to hear about it. Drop us an email at sales@adventuretogs.co.uk or share your pictures on our facebook page and help inspire others to play outdoors this spring.

Outdoor Blog Roundup – February

Outdoor Play Roundup

We have a lovely mixed bunch for you on the Roundup this month with posts about searching for the first signs of spring to fun with crates. We hope you enjoy!

One of the lovely things about late winter is that some of our first flowers start to appear as spring takes hold and gets ready to take over. Wild about here shared a lovely post about spotting colourful flowers at this time of year including a fabulous spotter sheet that is well worth printing out and taking along on your walks with you.

Everybody knows kids love a cardboard box but who knew about crates? Wonderful fellow outdoor play party co-host Learning for Life shared a great post about the amazing diversity of crates in children’s play. So if you can get hold of any for your garden or your school it certainly seems like they will be well worth the very small investment involved.

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Lastly we loved these grass caterpillars shared by Red Ted Art. They are so very cute and so easy to make. The perfect way to get your kids into gardening.

Over on facebook we discovered a fabulous new Forest Schools Kindergarten based in Sheffield. The will be running The Dangerous Adventure Club over the Easter which sounds like so much fun! We would love to see more of these across the country.

 Please do share your posts with us here at Adventure Togs and tell us how you have been playing outdoors this fortnight.

Finally a Snow Day!

This month’s regular guest post from outdoors mummy blogger, Leila Balin, is all about playing in the snow……

Snow Day

Last year I was incredibly disappointed at the lack of snow. Little Man had been born during a very snowy February and I was desperate for him to really experience playing in it. This year, when the snow finally came I was silly excited! I just knew Little Man would love and would be desperate to play in it.

Sure enough, when he woke him, he seemed very excited about how white everything was. I told him we would eat our breakfast, get wrapped up warm and go play. It was still early but as we were eating and getting ready I could already see it starting to melt. We had to get out quick before it completely turned to slush!

Little Man was good and keen to get outdoors so getting ready wasn’t a problem (as it sometimes can be with a strong willed 3 year old!). We were outside in no time and Little Man immediately asked for his bike. I tried to convince him bike riding wasn’t a sensible idea in snow but he knew best. I reluctantly handed him the bike and watched as he attempted to ride it round the garden. At first he didn’t do a bad job, the snow was wet enough for the wheels to cut through with ease, however, it wasn’t long before there was a fall and then the tears came. It wasn’t a serious fall, just a little slip but Little Man was not impressed and the whole world knew about it!

I slowly convinced him that it might be best to leave his bike in the shed and to spend some time playing with the snow but the cold stuff on his hands was too much to take. I wrongly assumed he would like playing with it, he loves to play with ice so naturally I thought snow would be his bag too. He begrudgingly followed me around the garden watching as I made a snow angle, threw snowballs and even made a very silly looking miniature snowman (no pictures I’m afraid!) but to no avail. The white stuff looked pretty but it wasn’t exciting his senses.

Maybe it was the fall off the bike, maybe he was slightly overwhelmed, or maybe he was just having one of those days but our one and only snow day failed to impress my grumpy little boy. He was much happier once we were inside and he could drive his cars and tractors around the carpet. What happened to my outdoorsy little man? For the remainder of the day he watched the snow melt from the window and occasionally attempted a snow angel on the carpet but that was as much as his interest would allow. Maybe next year he will be more into snow play, let’s hope we have more than one days worth to experiment with.

Did your kiddos enjoy the snow this year?

Leila writes a personal, nature inspired blog at Mud Marvellous Mud. She is passionate about connecting children to nature and writes about her son’s experiences as they explore together. She is trained to Forest Schools and Beach Schools level 3 and is currently studying for an Open University Open Degree.