Create a Program Culture that Supports Outdoor Play and Exploration

a boy sits on a grassy lawn, looking at a dried leafEHS and MSHS professionals typically recognize the importance of creating safe, nurturing, and inviting indoor environments where infants and toddlers can thrive and explore. Much attention is given to how the space is arranged; selecting equipment and materials; and providing appropriate, individualized experiences. Is the same true of the outdoor setting? Is there an explicit emphasis on the importance and value of daily contact with nature and outdoor play and exploration? Do staff and families understand and "buy in" to this aspect of quality programming for infants and toddlers?

One way to build support and understanding is to develop a philosophy statement describing the program's beliefs.1 A defined philosophy statement that is supported by program leadership and policies can guide program practices by providing a framework for intentional planning and teaching. Consider the following process for developing the philosophy statement.

  • Ask for input from staff and families. Provide information and resources as needed to facilitate the conversation.
  • Involve staff and families in writing and reviewing the statement to increase consensus and support.
  • Once it is finalized, translate the statement into families' home languages. Post the statement where families and staff can see it. Consider including it in newsletters and other documents that describe the program.
  • Share and discuss the statement during new staff and family orientations, staff and parent meetings, home visits, and group socializations.

1Almeras, Creating a Nature-Based Culture, slides 24, 32.