Westfield House Childcare - Saltaire, Shipley

Forest School & Outdoor Learning

We collaborated with Spongetree to create and develop our outdoor spaces for the children to enjoy on a daily basis. These natural play spaces offer open ended play opportunities in tranquil and secure gardens which include recycled musical equipment, maths ladybirds, living willow tunnel, vegetable patch, herb garden, fairy garden and bug hotel. These are used as outdoor classrooms. Areas have been developed for each specific age group, but we also use the space flexibly across the age groups as appropriate.

To support the children in enjoying outdoor play throughout the year in all weathers we ensure that fleece lined snowsuits are provided, along with sheltered areas in the gardens. In our large garden we have added toilet facilities, a baby change unit and hand washing facilities in an outdoor building to support children in spending longer periods outdoors and the ability to develop independence in their own care routines.

Natural art is encouraged; including activities of painting with natural paintbrushes, sculptures using materials collected in the garden, chalk painting and transient art with natural resources. There are opportunities for gross motor development using trikes, river stones, tree stumps and slides. Both gardens offer outdoor reading libraries, with areas to sit and read and mark make. Children are encouraged to construct dens, obstacle courses and imaginary role-play sets using recycled materials. The mud kitchen sparks imaginary play of making fairy potions, meals for friends out of mixing concoctions of mud, flowers and leaves. In warmer weather children can eat snacks and meals outdoors using our picnic tables.

We run Forest School sessions for children over three years old on Monday’s and Thursday’s throughout the year, and include this as part of our holiday club provision for school aged children. Our Forest School is led by Rachael (Early Years Teacher) and Kennedy (Level 6 Qualified) who are currently undertaking their Forest School Level 3. The children undertake these sessions in Northcliffe Woods, and the walk itself provides great physical development and road safety opportunities. Children are encouraged to notice changes in the environment as the seasons change. Occasionally sessions are held at the setting, and we make use of our garden setting.

Here are some comments from parents about our gardenspace:

“Love it – feels like a real haven and is beautifully set out.”

“The creativity and imaginative activities. Also the way items have been recycled to produce interesting toys.”

“Willow tunnel – it is absolutely beautiful and very calming.”

“Natural space for exploring – lots of things to discover that aren’t obvious at first glance.”

“I love the use of natural materials to make each feature. The garden incorporates lots of learning opportunities and a range of stimuli to promote thought, investigation and discussion.”