Lotto funding helps youngsters enjoy outdoor play in all weathers
STAFF and children at a pre-school in Winterbourne are celebrating the completion of their sensory garden.
Rainbow Bears pre-school, which is part of the Winterbourne Early Years Centre, won £10,000 of lottery funding to cover the cost.
The sensory garden, above, is an outdoor area which can be used in all weathers, where children have the freedom to explore using all their senses.
Centre Manager Tracy Lockley said: “They can chuck on wellies and wet suits and get muddy, they have a massive mud kitchen with access to a tap, so they can add water to mud. We’ve had ‘cooking’ and mud pies and coloured water.
“We have got a planting area, but there is also a digging area, a fairy garden, a dinosaur area, a water wall with a flow of water, right down to cosy beanbags so they can sit and read.”
Previously the preschool had a standard outdoor area with basic play activities and sand. But the early years curriculum requires children aged 3 and 4 years old to learn using all their senses, and to be able to move freely between indoors and outdoors, choosing activities themselves. Gone are the days when children would go outside for a playtime and then be called back in. The approach is known as ‘free flow’.
Tracy said: “The children are encouraged to risk assess their own practice and play. There are basic guidelines that staff have talked through. It’s allowing them to learn through risky play.”
Local company Frome Valley Landscaping, which did the work, managed to provide recycled items as well as new, and finish in good time ahead of the pre-school's increase in hours. From September it will be offering provision five days a week instead of the current three.
Tracy said the benefits of the garden were already clear, with children interacting more often, discussing their activities and problem solving. It is also used by Forest School staff.
Tracy said: “We all have such busy lives at home that parents perhaps don’t explore messy play at home as much as they used to years ago – especially mud play – how often do you see that anymore? Parents put their children into old clothes to come to us and they know they will spend most of the day outside, using all their senses.”
Rainbow Bears is based at St Michael’s C of E Primary School. It has another setting at The Greenfields Centre in Winterbourne, which also comes under the Winterbourne Early Years Centre’s umbrella.