Outdoors at My Setting

Outdoors at My Setting

Play outdoors is so important and we operate a ‘free flow’ system where the children move in and out as they wish. I get so many questions about my outdoor area and have often shared photos over on my Instagram page, but not so many over here on the blog. I am trying really hard to develop our outdoor area (tricky when there is no budget!), so please bear that in mind when I share these pictures – I know there is a lot to do!

We have an outdoor area just for ourselves and this is what I am working to develop. There is a larger ‘Reception’ area and Nursery can also access this, but we find that some of our children prefer to be in ‘our’ part when the Reception children are out.

The three Reception classes are currently working on their classrooms (and will focus on the outdoor area after that) and so I will just be sharing photos from our part.

We don’t have any fixed equipment (unless you count our our Utility Kitchen and Water Pump, which are heavy, but moveable), but I’m happy with that as we don’t have a large space and it allows the area to be used as the children wish and it can be different everyday.


Large Loose Parts

There are a number of resources that I’d find it difficult to be without. They are used every day and as they are open ended, the children can be very creative with them…


A free resource as garages have to pay to get rid of them, so will happily fill your car (ask them to remove any nails for you). Fabulous for working on their gross motor skills…

Tyre play from Rachel (",)

Planks of Wood

Playing with planks of wood outdoors - from Rachel (",)

Milk Crates

Castles, cars and horses... from Rachel (",)

Bricks & Blocks

Foam bricks from TTS, blocks from Newby Leisure and real house bricks…

Foam bricks from TTS, blocks from Newby Leisure and real house bricks - from Rachel (",)

Here, you can see some of their independent building with these resources…

Building with blocks (from Newby Leisure) , foam bricks (from TTS) and normal house bricks - from Rachel (",)


Traffic cone play - from Rachel (",)

Cable Reels

Donated by parents – a fabulous resource! I’ve left them in their natural state as they are more open ended this way. Here you can see them used as part of some train play, but they are used as tables, chairs, building materials… all sorts!


Logs and Tree Stumps

I rescued these from our old garden (a tree had to be cut down and I asked the tree surgeon to cut it up for me) and they have just become part of the children’s natural play…

Logs and old tree stumps - from Rachel (",)


Weaving Area, Arch and Storage

When we were first in the building I made a den with some plant pots & Withy Willow sticks (we were going to grow beans up the sticks). Since then, I remembered I had a cheap garden arch and so  I dismantled the ‘den’ and weaved the Withy Willow sticks through the fence instead. I plan on us using this as a weaving area. Cheap plant holders are now on the fence as storage…

Old 'den', turned into weaving area and new arch and storage - from Rachel (",)

I’ve put chicken wire on the bar fence and we use S hooks to hang things from them…

Some of the current storage outdoors - chicken wire with S Hooks and hanging baskets... from Rachel (",)


Grassy Area

Through the gate is a grassy area for all Nursery and Reception to use. There are some tractor tyres, a black pipe (donated from our builders) and some ropes. One of our Reception teachers arranged for our Site Manager to fix the rope around the trees for the children to balance on (fab for gross motor skills) and they loved it. Unfortunately the bottom rope is no longer intact after older children balanced on it, but the higher rope is perfect for den making.

Outdoor Grassy Area from Rachel (",)


Water Play

We have a fabulous water pump from Newby Leisure that I won in a competition, but our water area is really in need of development. I can’t find any pictures of the area at the moment (apart from in the background in the very last picture of this post), but the water pump is the same as this one…

Water Pump

We have an outside tap just next to it, which the children make great use of. As well as using the water tray, the children use the water with gutter pipes and bowls etc. There’s an example here…

Water play from Rachel (",)

We really need outdoor waterproofs, but have nowhere to store them. A problem that needs solving!!


Moveable Climbing Frame

The children love this. There is a larger frame too, but there isn’t room to store it in our shed & it isn’t weather proof, so it is now being used inside my classroom!

Moveable climbing frame - from Rachel (",)


Pictures of Outdoor Play

I thought I’d share a few pictures of the children’s play outdoors. You may have seen some of these on my Instagram page…

Balancing foam bricks on a plank and some cones…

Balancing foam bricks on a plank and some cones - from Rachel (",)

Exploring balance with a plank and a tyre… 

Exploring balance with a plank and a tyre... from Rachel (",)

Child initiated play in the grassy area…

Child initiated play in the grassy area from Rachel (",)

Fabulous racing car track created with open-ended loose parts…

Fabulous racing car track created with open-ended loose parts outdoors - from Rachel (",)

Various images of play…

Large loose parts outdoors from Rachel (",)

The wonder of a puddle! 

This is in the Reception garden…

The wonder of a puddle... from Rachel (",)

Trapping a ‘river’…

Trapping a 'river' - from Rachel (",)

Large dominoes…

Large dominoes outdoors - from Rachel (",)

More block play…

Blocks from Newby Leisure and foam bricks from TTS - from Rachel (",)


Mark Making

Obviously, there are lots of different ways to mark make outdoors – chalk, paintbrushes and water, powder paint, with sticks in the snow/soil etc etc…

Mark making outdoors - from Rachel (",)

We also have a ‘mark making trolley’, which is actually intended to be a cleaning trolley. It’s on wheels and it is possible to remove each section if you wish. We currently store resources like clipboards, paper, pens, felt tips pencils etc It isn’t very practical on a rainy day, but useful when it’s dry…

Outdoor mark making trolley - from Rachel (",)


Number Play

I don’t plan specific activities for outdoor maths as I think it’s better to enable to environment so that it happens naturally.

We do have plastic and foam number tiles…

Number tiles outdoors- from Rachel (",)

… but we prefer our natural resources – stones, shells, pine cones, wooden discs/slices etc…

Materials for maths and outdoor play - from Rachel (",)

Counting and number recognition outdoors - from Rachel (",)

Counting and number recognition outdoors - from Rachel (",)

Number recognition, counting and ordering outdoors - from Rachel (",)

Counting, number recognition and pattern work outdoors - from Rachel (",)

… and of course, it happens as part of their play too! (This little one is counting to check she has made enough popcorn for her friends.)

Making popcorn for her friends and counting to check she has made enough - from Rachel (",)


Outdoor Kitchen

The children absolutely love pretending to cook outdoors. We are lucky enough to have a Utility Kitchen from Newby Leisure and you can see more images of it in this post.

Outdoor kitchen (from Newby Leisure) and sand area from different angles - from Rachel (",)

Cooking outdoors with natural materials - from Rachel (",)


Thanks for reading!

Playing with foam bricks - from Rachel (",)

Don’t forget that you can also find me on FacebookInstagramTwitter &  Pinterest

Would love you to come & say hello! 🙂 

– Rachel (“,)

Grassy area - from Rachel (",)

Outdoor area (currently under development) - from Rachel (",)



  1. Your outdoor area is so fabulous and I’m very envious! At our school we don’t have anything near this. Thank you for sharing this post.

    • Oh thank you! That means a lot! 🙂

      • What are the black plastic holders that you have used to place your outdoor maths resources in? Looks fab!!

        • They are garden hanging baskets from B&M 🙂

          • Thank you 🙂

          • You’re welcome! 🙂

    • This is so inspirational and looks so much fun. Thanks for sharing.

      • Really appreciate your comment, Jennifer! Thank you! 🙂

  2. It’s an amazing place to learn in. I would love to create all these opportunities in my Year 1 outdoor area. Thank you for sharing.

    • Oh, thank you so much, Jenny!

  3. It looks like a lovely space and you have a lot of resources – I’m jealous. We have a relatively small area but the problem is sharing it with the younger children (18 months to 36 months) so it’s a challenge finding resources that suit all. I always love to look at your posts for inspiration.

    • Oh my word, that’s a really tough challenge! Thank you so much for the lovely comment!

  4. Your area looks great I love the covered area and all of your resources! We have quite a large area but it is on a steep slope which is tricky as we gave two children in electric wheel chairs and a large bandstand which can only be accessed by steps! Working with things you inherit can be tricky! Like you we love our natural resources best and I try to keep outside as natural as possible and to make a difference to inside I try to focus on gross motor skills. We struggle though as our health and safety officer has put a stop to free flow. We have to have a member of staff inside and outside at all times which is difficult when there is only me in an afternoon! Great for the children’s negotiating skills though, you should hear the children discuss where to play and trying to persuade each other to play in/out!

    • Crikey, you have some really tricky challenges to cope with! I love the idea of your bandstand, but I can see the access problems must be a real pain.
      Really appreciate the lovely comment – thank you!

  5. Your setting is amazing! I’m so jealous!!! And your children are very lucky. You must work so hard! How do you maintain it and keep on top of things? I really struggle and don’t even touch my outdoors at the minute due to time constraints. Xx

    • Oh, thank you!
      We’ve just done it bit by bit. I agree, it’s so hard to keep on top of it all when it’s so practical. Every so often I have a spurt of ‘outdoor enthusiasm’ and I blast a bit of it. My Head is always saying “It’s a marathon not a sprint” and I think we have to remember that.
      We’ve worked really hard with the children too, so that they are able to tidy up the area when it’s time (we have to keep on top of them though!), which really helps.

  6. Hi I love your outdoor space. I have lots of resources similar to your in my preschool garden including tyres, stumps, wooden planks. I love the building bricks you have. My problem is the injuries and accidents the children have. We have these great resources and the love using them to build cars, ramps, obstacle courses. But the children are so delicate and accident prone they fall of everything, they walk on the wood it flips up hits them on the head then everyone wants everything removed adults are supervising but they still hurt themselves all the time. Do you have this problem and how do you stop it ?

    • Hi Natalie.
      Thankfully, nothing more than a few falls and scraped knees, but accidents happen in our setting too, and I think that’s part of the learning process. When they are first playing with the loose parts, we’re playing with them too, to support the process of ‘safe’ risk taking. They scare the life out of me with the planks sometimes, but myself or my TA are always close by (if we’re not actually playing with them) and they become better with ‘positioning’ them so that don’t flip as easily, the more we play with them.
      It’s a shame your Head asks you to remove some of your resources – I think it’s more important than ever for the children to learn what a sensible risk is 🙁

  7. I really like all the ideas. Thanks for sharing.

    • You’re welcome, Tonya!

  8. I love your outside space! So many ways for children to play and be creative! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Victoria! You’re welcome! 🙂

  9. You have such a large area it’s wonderful.
    We have a narrow outside area as we are a preschool operating in a church hall.
    But try to make the most of the space we have, I really enjoy reading your posts especially your story baskets

    • Oh, thanks for the lovely comment, Jan, I’m so pleased you like my posts!
      Our area is not actually as big as it looks in the photos, but we try to make the most of it! Having a narrow area must be very frustrating for you, but we can only do our best, can’t we?!

  10. Most children would think they had landed in child paradise with all the available open ended pieces available to use. The whole concept is incredible. Well done

    • Oh wow! Thank you so much, Gayle!

  11. It looks great!!!! We have similar resources but less space and a walk to grassy area- great idea to have flowers etc with water as a reprieve from mud we did this for fairy soup on Friday with magic glitter seasoning- lots of engagement and writing recipes

    • Fab! Love hearing from like-minded people 🙂
      We have glitter in salt pots for outdoor cooking, but it’s not out permanently. Love a bit of sparkle 😉

  12. Love the way you work, have followed your work for a while now and you never cease to amaze me. Keep up the wonderful way you educate these young minds through play.

    • Oh Betty, thank you! These lovely words keep me going!

    • Thank you for sharing your ideas. Some really good use of natural and everyday materials. it’s got me thinking about using some of our resources a little differently. Where did you get the wooden dominoes from?

      • Thanks, Sarah!
        The wooden dominoes were donated from a playgroup that was closing, so I’m afraid I don’t know. Sorry!

  13. Have serious garden envy! Thank you so much for sharing it looks amazing! 🙂

    • Oh, thank you so much, Amy! Really appreciate you taking the time to comment:-)

  14. Wow, I wish half the staff at my setting were as focused and enthusiastic as you are! With no budget…..this is amazing! I’m slowly trying to build up on our collection of lose parts. Hoping I can achieve something similar as your outdoor space.The children love the construction reels and planks and have developed there awareness of space management and risk. Thanks for sharing, your photos have inspired me, need to share this with the other staff!! Thank you

    • Thanks for the lovely message, Kirsty!
      Perhaps you could send out requests to parents; you never know what will come in!

  15. You have created such unique activities with simple, everyday artifacts. I absolutely love all your stations! I would love to recreate your water station for older kids in the summer program I am helping with this year. I noticed some blue stands with bars going across that you used to support the pipes and planks going down at an angle. What are those, and where can I find something like them? Thank you so much!

    • Ah, thank you, Angie!
      The stands you’re referring to are water channel stands from TTS.
      I’m not sure if they still do the same height ones, as this looks to be a shorter version: http://www.tts-group.co.uk/metal-water-channel-stands-4pk/1000702.html#ui-id-1

      (I notice that someone has commented that they are shorter than they thought, too.) They might do other versions though, if you do a search. Cosy do water channel stands too.
      Hope that helps! 🙂

      • Thank you so much! It’s going to be fun watching the older kids create elaborate fixtures with simple elements.

        • Indeed! They constantly amaze me! 🙂

  16. Thank you for sharing your wonderful pictures. They provoke awe and wonder and I can see how engaged and enthusiastic your children are as they explore, expand and create. I am sure many inquiries they have come up with are solved through this exploration. I would mike to ask permission to share this blog with my class. I am an RECE in Ontario and a professor at Sheridan College. I am always looking for inspiration to share with my students.


    • Thank you for your lovely comment, Alison!
      Of course you can share it with your class – I would be honoured! 🙂

  17. I am starting a new job in the UAE and have been given a huge outdoor area to work with. Thanks for some of your lovely ideas, you have really inspired me to go back to my own childhood and just relax and enjoy. I wish you all the best.

    • Ah, that’s brilliant! Good luck with your new job!

  18. I would like to go back to school, to màke such equipment and see children playing like yours.
    Merci depuis la France où les cours d’école sont vides…

    • Thank you, Monique!


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