Supporting Mark, Making Skills Through Outdoor Play: Early Years Outdoors Learning

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Supporting Mark, Making Skills Through Outdoor Play: Early Years Outdoors Learning

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Supporting Mark, Making Skills Through Outdoor Play: Early Years Outdoors Learning

  1. 1. P L AY N O T E S January 2006 Supporting mark- making skills through outdoor playAll photographs © Learning through Landscapes unless otherwise stated. (for children from 0-5) Why does mark-making matter? Mark-making is one of the many ways that we babies and young children are aware make contact and share information with those that these marks have meaning. around us. Our environment is filled with print As they grow and develop they learn to and symbols in many forms and for a variety interpret and respond to the messages of purposes; signs on roads and shops, written that are being conveyed and begin their instructions, recipes and menus, labelled displays own attempts at communicating through and product packaging. From an early age marks and symbols. This resource was originally created as part of the Early Years Outdoors membership scheme from Learning through Landscapes. To find out more about membership call 01962 845 811 or visit www.ltl.org.uk M A R K M A K I N G M AT T E R S LEARNING THROUGH LANDSCAPES – 01962 845811
  2. 2. P L AY N O T E SThis Playnotes suggests the kinds of outdoor what they have produced, and the adult plays aexperiences that can be offered to support vital role in talking with children about the markschildren’s progress in mark-making to ensure that they have made. Such shared discussion is onethese skills are developed alongside the skills element of developing closer relationships withneeded for speaking, listening, and reading. children, and helping them to feel secure andExperienced practitioners recognise that the confident in their mark-making, fostering a moreconfident use of spoken language is a vital positive attitude to future writing experiences.precursor to children’s later success at writing andmark-making. Therefore babies and youngchildren need rich and inspiring opportunities forusing language to convey their thoughts andideas. The Early Years Outdoors Playnotes:Supporting Communication and Language throughOutdoor Play (May 2005) provides a wealth ofideas for Early Years practitioners wishing to reflectfurther on this aspect of their provision.Mark-making is a key element in the developmentof children as competent learners and confidentindividuals.Physical developmentGaining control and co-ordination of both largeand small muscle movements is a pre-requisite tothe development of mark-making skills. Providingsafe outdoor experiences can challenge andsupport the development of these movements.“The outdoors can provide a scale and freedom fora type of play that is difficult to replicate indoors,for example opportunities to dig a garden, explorewoodland, run on the grass, roll down a grassyslope or pedal a car across a hard surface”(Curriculum Framework for children 3 to 5,Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum,page 36).Children can develop fine motor skills usingbrushes and art equipment outdoors as well as in,and other outdoor activities can support theirdevelopment. It is interesting to note that the As well as making marks, the outdoors providesearly learning goals (in England) for handwriting more opportunities for children to start(within communication language and literacy) understanding the way that the adult world usesand for using tools and materials (within physical marks to convey meaning. Signs around thedevelopment) both originate with identical grounds should use both pictures and words, andstepping stones for the very youngest children: be referred to by staff when talking with children.● engage in activities requiring hand-eye coordination Creative and aesthetic development● use one-handed tools and equipment. Outdoor mark-making provides opportunities forOutdoor use of tools could include gardening greater scale – and mess! Children can use paints,tools as well as technology tools. When planting chalks, water and other materials to exploregardens, children could be shown how to make colours and express ideas and feelings.marks in the soil with trowels, and then sow seeds Photographs of the children’s work can create ain the mini-furrows created. permanent record of ephemeral outdoor artistic marks.Communication As well as these key areas, mark-making helpsThe outdoors can provide opportunities for play develop skills that will be vital in all areas ofand practical support to develop children’s learning.abilities to respond to the world with marks andsymbols. Providing easy access to ‘tool boxes’ Review the existing provision in yourcontaining mark-making materials, for use setting to see whether you offer thethroughout the indoor and outdoor areas, allows following types of experiences to supportchildren free expression. From even early attempts the development of mark-making skills inat making marks, children ascribe meanings to babies and young children. M A R K M A K I N G M AT T E R S LEARNING THROUGH LANDSCAPES – www.ltl.org.uk
  3. 3. P L AY N O T E S Babies and Children under 3Is your outdoor space a printrich environment?Can babies and toddlers see signsand symbols outdoors that havemeaning to them? For example:words and pictures on the areawhere their buggies are parked, orwhere their sand toys are stored.Does the outdoor environmentprovide a place for developingcontrol over large and smallbody movements?Can babies and toddlers moveenergetically and freely? Can theyclimb, crawl, run and balance?Do they have opportunities to pour,fill and empty containers? Do staff talk to babies and toddlers about the marks they see? Do they notice the signs and symbols that babies and toddlers see around them and talk to them about their meaning?Do the resources offered outdoors includebooks, pictures and alphabet letters?Is there a place outdoors where babies andtoddlers can share books and talk with interestedadults about the pictures and their meanings?Do children have a chance to become familiar withalphabet shapes? For example: through exploringand playing with magnetic, wooden or foamletters. Do babies and toddlers have opportunities to create marks outdoors? Can they experiment by pouring water and making puddles; by pressing tools and shapes into earth and sand to make imprints; by painting water on walls or tarmac, or by making prints of their hands or feet in paint or damp sand? Are staff providing shallow trays of cornflour ‘gloop’ for babies and toddlers to enjoy and experience a sensory mark- making activity? Do staff show babies and toddlers that their mark making attempts are recognised and valued? M A R K M A K I N G M AT T E R S LEARNING THROUGH LANDSCAPES – 01962 845811
  4. 4. P L AY N O T E S Children over 3 Depending on children’s stage of development, many of the activities and experiences offered to under- threes are equally relevant to older children. However, by offering the following types of activities and experiences, staff can provide further challenge and effective support to children’s progress.Do children have chancesto make large bodymovements?Does the outdoor space offeropportunities for dancing,twirling ribbons on sticks, or skywriting? Can children practiseand refine their control over theirupper body? Can they makeanticlockwise movements, andretrace vertical lines in the air andon the ground?Are there opportunities forchildren to develop upperbody strength?Can they climb, swing and hang?Can they hold on tightly and feeltheir own body weight?Do children haveopportunities to see anenvironment rich insymbols, text and picturesand create their ownmeaningful writing,drawing and signs? Does the outdoor space include word and picture labels? M A R K M A K I N G M AT T E R S GROUNDS FOR LEARNING – 01786 445922
  5. 5. P L AY N O T E SDoes it offer children imaginative play Is the outdoor environment resourced withscenarios that include symbols and mark mark making equipment?making opportunities? Can children access chalks, paints, crayons, felt These might tips etc? be labels for a special area of the garden; a café with menus and order pads; a post office or post box with letters and stamps; or a mechanics workshop with clipboards and invoice books.Can children create their own signs outdoors?Does the outdoor environment offerchildren opportunities for large scaledrawing and painting activities –bothvertically and on the ground?Is there adesignatedarea for mark- Do staff encourage children tomaking take advantage of naturalactivities, resources for mark making?for example Can children use stick and twigs toa whiteboard make marks in mud and snow, or useor chalk feathers in sand?board, or aspecific areaof theoutdoors? Do children have access to books outdoors? Why not include books that have mark-making as key theme to encourage and inspire children’s own efforts. In a recent edition of Early Years Educator (Volume 7 No.7 November 2005), Helen Bromley reviewed four books that encourage children to value and enjoy their mark-making attempts. See the reference section for further information. M A R K M A K I N G M AT T E R S GROUNDS FOR LEARNING – www.gflscotland.org.uk
  6. 6. P L AY N O T E S Children over 3Does the outdoors offer childrenexperiences to develop control and co- Picture Case Studyordination over small muscle movements?Can children A selection of chubby chalks inspired a child atweave from left Sticky Fingers Day Nursery to draw a detailedto right, or trace figure drawing on the tarmac area.patterns in sand,or pour waterfrom onecontainer toanother?Outdoors offers exciting opportunities forproviding children with all the elements ofplay and learning that, when combined,will ensure that they have the physicalcontrol and dexterity, and confidentlanguage skills to become successfulcommunicators through mark-making.Further reading AcknowledgmentsGuidance on the Development of early The Dot, Peter Reynolds, Thank you to the following settings forwriting in Reception Classes . DfES, 2001. Walker Books ISBN 07449345X. the pictures provided:For further information for this age group. Gregory and the Magic Line, Bertie’s Playgroup, Glebe House DayAlthough it has little mention of the Dawn Piggott, Nursery, Clyde Early Excellence Centre,outdoor environment it provides useful Dolphin Paperbacks ISBN 1842552783. Glebe House Day Nursery,background reading. Available online at Dorking Nursery School, Ethelred Nursery Angel Pavement, Quentin Blake,www.dfes.gov.uk/achievingsuccess School, Highways at Hamstreet Random House ISBN 0099451549. Kindergarten, Mongeham Primary School,Early Years Outdoors Playnotes: Supporting The Shape Game, Anthony Browne, White Oaks Preschool, Sticky Fingers DayCommunication and Language through Picture Corgi ISBN 0552546968. Nursery, Pipsqueaks Day Nursery.Outdoor Play (May 2005). M A R K M A K I N G M AT T E R S GROUNDS FOR LEARNING – 01786 445922

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