Outdoor learning in Dubai

Time Out Kids profiles outdoor learning in Dubai, specifically the work at Nord Anglia International School


H eading off to school at three years old can feel like a big adventure. With lots of new things to learn and understand, it can take a while for any child to settle into a typical classroom environment.

So, when Time Out Kids heard about the new concept of introducing kids to an outdoor classroom for Learning through Play, we couldn’t wait to go exploring.

The Learning through Play concept is to allow children to learn as much as possible about their environment through exploration, manipulation, trial and error, improvisation and acting out. It enables children to think creatively and flexibly, solve problems and link ideas.

Play-based learning has really sparked in the minds of educators and possibly changed the style of education in the early years departments of many nurseries and schools across Dubai.

An outdoor classroom does not mean that the children do what they like all day, nor does it replace intentional teaching, instead its purpose is to complement and enhance various areas of a child’s learning.

Annalisa Robinson, team leader and Early Years teacher at Nord Anglia International School, has been
working with children for over 20 years, and feels her passion for play-based learning sets the classroom alight.

“I knew I wanted to teach from when I was a young girl,” says Robinson. “I really believe that young children deserve the best education you can give them.”

In her classroom we can see the fruits of her work as little hands explore, little minds question and tiny feet hop, skip and jump around the outdoor space. The doors are always open, so kids are free to flow between inside and out.

“We call it the ‘outdoor classroom’,” says Robinson. “Our children love to move from the indoor to the outdoor spaces and this is a key factor of good early years practice. It’s also vital for young children to develop their coordination, build muscle mass and experiment by moving their bodies.”

At three years old kids want to explore the world. They want to touch it, taste it, paint it and roll in it. It can be tricky to sit still.

It appears that more and more schools are introducing an outdoor space to help boost a child’s learning. We give this learning concept a ten out of ten.

Top tips for play-based learning at home

Take a break
Don’t do the housework. Free play is fun so kick back and give yourself a break and give them large chunks of free play each day. In letting children play by themselves, they learn to self-regulate and are free to explore.

Kids take charge
Let them be bossy. Get down on the floor with them and let them tell you what to do. This gives them heaps of confidence and responsibility, and gives you the chance to hear about their exciting day at nursery or school.

Question time
If you can’t beat them, join them. Their questions might drive you crazy sometimes but take a deep breath and join in. This helps with their vocabulary and adds to their repertoire. It can help get their homework done too.

Get creative
Embrace the mess. Introduce materials such as paint or play dough or anything from your store cupboard. Kids can let their imaginations run wild if you can give them something crafty and let them have free play.

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