Four weeks into our first term at Venture!

We are four weeks in to our first term of Venture! All of the children have settled so well and are making new friends and we are really enjoying getting to know them all.

The group have settled into a rhythm for the day, spending time getting ourselves equipped for an adventure together and deciding where we should head to. We have had high winds, rain and extremely high tides to consider and base our choices on. When we are all suitably water-proofed and insulated and we have checked our backpacks, we head off on an adventure and spend the morning following the children’s interests and talking lots about what we find. After lunch and stories, the children help to pack up camp and we head back to the garden for play and hot chocolate.


Zoe’s favourite thing this half term has been watching the children becoming more comfortable using the natural resources that we encounter to play and learn. We have taken very little out and about with us so far, stretching the children’s ability to just play as nature intended without the adults influencing them at all. It is tricky as an adult not to jump in and direct the children when we first arrive in the woods or wherever we are headed. The children often appear to be doing ‘nothing’ at first, but if we give them space they gradually move away from us and become engrossed in something, alone or together, that we would never have dreamed of suggesting. The play that is beginning to emerge has been very peaceful and purposeful.



Jenny’s favourite thing so far has been all the things we have discovered in Hope Cove, such as the fisherman washing his lobster pots, the farmer rounding up sheep, the digger picking up bags of rubble, the drain full to the brim with water and the seals playing in the surf. All of this has highlighted to her how much we can offer the children in an ever-changing environment compared to everyday being the same room full of the same resources.

Click here to read the Newsletter for parents Spring 1 2018



The Early Years curriculum, outdoors

We would like to share with you a little bit about how things work at Venture Outdoor Kindergarten and how this links with the Early Years Foundation Stage. We are very proud of our techniques and confident in our unique approach after many years of experience both with our own children and at work.                                                                             Our focus is always the children’s emotional well-being. We are conscious that without confidence and high self-esteem nothing else will follow. Initially we concentrate on independence and a positive mental attitude, encouraging the children to do everything themselves and offering support, always making them feel that they have achieved. At first these might be the smallest of tasks such as climbing up onto a bench to have lunch or unzipping their own coat, but this confidence carries forward into primary school where the children will feel they are ready to tackle anything.
We take everything at the child’s pace and the sessions are child-led. The day might consist of simply wandering the footpaths following the children’s interests and whilst this is happening we are covering all aspects of the EYFS. We tell stories as we go and learn to listen to sounds we hear around us and to conversations within the group. The children learn to express themselves as they find what interests them. They are able in a calm quiet environment to talk freely and be heard/listened to.

The children easily cover all aspects of physical development within the natural and real environment: climbing, balancing, jumping and handling equipment and tools. Their fine motor skills are developed for school in all the many tasks we undertake such as zips, ropes, vegetable peelers, pegs. We mark make/write on stones and in the sand or mud.
The children naturally learn the importance of a healthy lifestyle. We talk about fresh air and exercise and instil in them a healthy approach by spending time outdoors playing rather than the focus being indoor play and technology. Healthy eating is promoted and role modelled by staff and we place emphasis on the children becoming independent in self-care ensuring that they are confident and ‘school ready’.

The children become more resilient through outdoor challenges and more willing to try new activities. We come across members of the public and the children learn to keep themselves safe and also develop confidence in talking to others.
Children’s behaviour is naturally better when outside and they experience less conflict. This is partly due to the fact that outside they do not experience the chaotic noise and over-stimulation sometimes found in indoor preschool settings. There is also more space and time to talk about unacceptable behaviours and the children naturally have to adjust their behaviour as they find themselves in an ever changing situation. Being outside in a natural setting not only supports children’s good behaviour but also means that children can learn about and distinguish different sounds in preparation for phonics more easily. The children can better hear the adult when we make the phonic sounds to decode words. We find real life situations for reading everywhere we go such as on signs and maps.

We count steps, sort and categorise objects we find, talk about weight, position, distance, shapes, time, quantity and we problem solve using these skills. We spend time talking and allowing the children to talk about themselves, their lives and their families. We discuss others traditions and cultures and the children learn that they don’t all enjoy the same things. We are surrounded by nature and all the natural interest that this brings. We investigate nature and talk about changes in seasons and the children learn to make observations of animals and plants and learn why things occur whilst experiencing first hand changes in the environment. The children use cameras and an ipad for map reading, making their use of technology for a particular purpose.

The children sing songs together and dance and create using what we find around us, talking about colour, texture and using tools to help us design. The adults stand back and allow the children to play and their ideas to flow. We do not stop them when they are engaged in important role play with friends, through which they are able to represent their own ideas and thoughts and feelings.

Zoe’s childhood memories

My affinity with the outdoors began amongst the beautiful Shropshire countryside where I grew up. My parents were keen to instill in their children an appreciation of the simple things in life and so family time was spent on long, rambling walks, bike rides and camping trips.

When my parents were busy I, like most children who grew up in the eighties, played outside. We were outside no matter what the time of year. The thick coats and boots of wintertime gave way to wellies and raincoat, then swimming suits and sandals to cardigans and ear muffs as our adventures outside continued through the seasons. We would leave the house in the morning with our ‘rations’ and spend our days climbing trees and singing as we gathered resources to make further improvements to our den.

One of my most vibrant memories is of a moment when I was alone outdoors at around the age of 5. As I was running along I came across a bird on the path. It was sitting absolutely still. I crept towards it feeling excited but knowing that I had to be slow and calm, and I remember thinking as I got closer and closer to it, that it would fly away soon but it didn’t. I managed to get right up close to the bird and see all of the detail in its tiny beak and its shiny eyes and the layers and layers of feathers along its back. It feels like I was looking at that bird for minutes, although looking back it was probably only seconds before it flew away, and the image of it is still vivid in my mind.

As a teenager I spent less time outdoors but I appreciate now the fact that it was my job to walk the family dog. My walks alone in the woods allowed me to balance the busyness of teenage life with a continued peaceful connection to the earth.
As an adult when I revisit the destinations of my childhood play, I feel as though I have returned to my true home. The memories I made there and the lessons I learned will always stay with me.

I now have five lively, inquisitive children of my own; Jacob, Casper, Scarlett, Gabriel and Luca and the natural world has played an enormous role in their upbringing. They have given me so many opportunities to relive some of those precious childhood moments and as they grow up I find immense joy in seeing them all connect with the outdoors in their own way, creating their own future memories of special times and places. It is not always easy as the lure of tv and technology threatens to keep them indoors, but it is something that my husband and I feel passionate about.

I feel extremely privileged that through Venture Outdoor Kindergarten I am able to combine my love of spending time outdoors with working with young children, to spend my working days slowing down to a child’s pace and seeing the magic of the world through their eyes.




Jenny’s childhood memories

Jenny’s Childhood Memories

Jenny grew up in Sussex and spent her early days playing by the stream next to her house, making camps and mud pies with friends and riding her bike to a nearby farm to ride the horses. Camping and caravaning were the family holidays in Dorset and the New Forest where Jenny and her two brothers would scramble around playing in trees and streams, drinking fresh goat’s milk from old lemonade bottles, fishing and scrumping until it got dark.

When Jenny was 8 they moved to a beautiful house in the countryside where she would stay until she left home and here her and her brothers made the woods their own and felt they could have happily lived in some of the camps they built together. Jenny enjoyed making them homely and once covered an entire camp in layers of bright green moss. Treasure was buried in various spots around the garden (mostly their mother’s jewellery!) and they ate whatever they could find in the greenhouse, vegetable plot and orchard rather than stopping for lunch.

In 1985 Jenny went to a boarding school in the Sussex countryside which prided itself on a dangerous assault course (until it blew down in the 1987 storms) with a leap of faith where some had broken a bone. Occasionally at night after lights out the children would be called to get out of bed and go outside for a midnight swim. The school also organised ‘D’ day where the children spent the term building a camp in teams until, one surprise evening, a secret password would be spoken to announce the night when they would spend the night in their camp, responsible for lighting a fire and cooking their own food for the day.

The outdoor life continued with frequent trips to the Isle of Wight where Jenny learnt to sail and had a Swallows and Amazons existence with her cousins and brothers. Jenny’s next school brought more memories of exploring outside when they discovered they could escape through the dormitory window and camp out all night. Making swings and dens and enjoying the freedom of sailing in and out of nooks within the nearby reservoir.

After school, Jenny bought a round the world ticket and became immersed in different cultures, one of her best memories being staring out of a train window in India watching miles of shanty towns and countryside roll by. Returning home to study at University in London and spending some time staying on tobacco farms in Zimbabwe, Jenny then met her husband and they decided to leave the Home Counties and move to Devon for the quality of life. After twenty years in Devon, they love it more than anywhere else and are still discovering new places to explore with their own children, who have spent their entire childhoods in the fresh air!

What is Child-Led Play? Or why we take a step back, observe and wait to see what emerges.

Humans, like all mammals are born with the natural urge to play. It is the way in which they learn about their world and about how to live alongside the other humans that inhabit it. Children are play experts. They instinctively know what they need to achieve the next step in their learning and when given the space and freedom to do so, will naturally gravitate towards the type of play and experiences to move themselves forward.
The role of the adult is to offer a safe learning environment and allow children to follow their own play urges whilst being a 'supportive presence' for the child who is deeply engrossed in play. It is necessary to take a step back, observe and wait to see what emerges, allowing as much time as it takes.

Learning to interact with the world
We learn through the use of our senses and the more senses that are engaged at the moment of learning, the more beneficial that learning is. Children need to be immersed in the world in order for them to learn about it. Child-led play means allowing the time and space to smell, look and listen without interruption, to feel the elements and sometimes to taste too. Through child-led play in a natural environment, there are endless opportunities for children to use their senses simultaneously and to do so when they themselves feel ready.

Children gradually become more competent at engaging with their world and assessing risk through child-led play. As adults we do not rush them to take on physical challenges that they may not be ready for but instead take a step back, observe and wait to see what emerges in their play. Given time and space a child will only attempt what they are ready for and they are very aware of their own capabilities when they are used to deciding for themselves and taking on physical challenges without adult 'help'. As the adult has spent time observing the child, they have the confidence to see what unfolds or to give verbal support if needed

Learning to interact with others

During play which is controlled by an adult, the children rely on the adult to get everyone involved, assign roles and decide what is to happen. Child-led play means allowing the child to play at what they want and with whomever they want. They are responsible for engaging others, for keeping the play going and collaborating to decide what will happen. They learn how to build relationships and see others’ points of view, whilst get their point across and stand up for their own beliefs. At times this may lead to conflict and as adults, we may feel uncomfortable watching conflicts happen, especially as we often think that we could offer a solution and quickly restore peace. Child-led learning means that, as long as no violence is involved, we take a step back, observe and wait to see what emerges. We allow space for the children to negotiate for themselves. It may take some time for a solution to be reached, but the children learn a powerful lesson in trusting themselves to work things out rather than the lesson that adults always have all of the answers anyway and that they don’t need to consider these issues for themselves.

Many adults feel that children can only learn if someone with more knowledge than them shows them and teaches them about the world. By teaching in this way, power is taken away from the child and what the child actually learns is that they are not competent, that they don't know enough and that they should rely on others for what they need.

We all know how gratifying is when we feel we have mastered something new, particularly if that something was especially challenging. It is important not to take that feeling of fulfilment away from children by rushing in with the answers or solutions to problems. Even if the conclusion that the child comes to is not the universally accepted 'correct' one, they will get a buzz from having made a discovery or mastered something for themselves. That buzz is pattern forming, and is the way in which children 'learn to learn', empowering them to master whatever they aspire to master as they go through life.


by Zoe Purkis on 7.9.17