The conference will take place over 2 days. Take a look at the programme below and register here.

Day 1: 23rd November 2021 3.00pm-6.00pm

Time Session

Outdoor play: back to basics

The growing interest in outdoor play in recent years has brought with it exciting new trends but also misconceptions about what outdoor play truly is. Jan White takes us back to basics and addresses three key questions:

  • what is outdoor play?
  • why is it so important to children’s learning and development?
  • what should be the key principles underpinning it?

Professor Jan White, early childhood consultant, outdoor play and provision & co-director, Early Childhood Outdoors


Virtual exhibition and networking break


Provision: don’t throw money at it!

When it comes to planning outdoor provision, particularly within a small space, what matters is not money, explains Julie Mountain, but: 

  • starting with the principles of best practice
  • understanding how to use space creatively
  • focusing on open-ended resources
  • looking to places and partnerships outside the nursery to broaden children's experiences of outdoor play. 
Julie Mountain, consultant in outdoor play and director, Play Learning Life

Case study: all-round benefits

Take a tour of provision at Tall Trees Kindergarten to see how it delivers the many benefits of outdoor play.

Emma Comer, owner of Tall Trees Kindergarten, Frome


Access: breaking down the barriers

Naomi Clarke considers barriers to participation for children from BAME communities and the need to rethink attitudes and practices to make outdoor play and learning more accessible.

Naomi Clarke, outdoor education consultant


Case study: deep-level learning

Learn how the staff team at Wentworth Nursery School and Children’s Centre focus on the depth of children’s play to deliver high-quality play opportunities for all children, taking STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and imagination as examples.

Ben Hasan, head teacher, Wentworth Nursery School and Children’s Centre, Hackney, London

6.00pm End of day 1 


Day 2: 24 November 2021 3.00pm-6.00pm

Time Sessions

Nature pedagogy

For centuries, education theorists have highlighted the benefits of young children ‘being in nature’. Niki Buchan looks at the development of nature pedagogy and, in particular, its power to: 

  • provide risk, challenge and adventure in children’s play
  • help develop children’s self-regulation
  • give children a sense of agency and empowerment
  • develop important dispositions such as resilience and independence

Niki Buchan, international consultant, author and director, Natural Learning Early Childhood Consultancy


A city perspective: creating more play spaces

With outdoor space at a premium in many towns and cities, Paul Hocker takes the political temperature on giving young children greater access to outdoor play and outlines London initiatives – from mud kitchens in playgrounds to partnerships with places of worship – that may help deliver on this goal – and could be copied around the country. Paul will explore new routes to nature:

  • presenting fresh ideas on connecting your urban setting to nature
  • forging atypical partnerships to achieve that aim
  • examples of good practice and innovation

Paul Hocker, London Play, a charity dedicated to giving children space, time and freedom to play outside every day

4.00pm Virtual exhibition and networking break
4.20pm Health, well-being and opportunities for all

Sarah Watkins explains why and how, post-COVID, early years settings should focus far more on child health and well-being, movement and the needs of all children, including those with SEND.

Sarah Watkins, Forest School leader and university lecturer

5.00pm Short break

Case study: learning together

Set up in 2019, Growing Wild is Barnsley’s first outdoor nursery. Co-owner Janet Packer tracks a typical week and provides some takeaway messages to help inform best practice across all types of early years setting, for example in: 

  • learning within mixed-age groups
  • the rhythm of the day
  • experiences for two-year-olds

Janet Packer, co-owner of Growing Wild Outdoor Nursery, Barnsley



Dr Diane Boyd explores ecology and the Sustainable Development Goals in the early years:

  • What is education for sustainability?
  • Why is it important in early childhood?
  • Providing activities and environments that link to the Sustainable Development Goals

Dr Diane Boyd, senior lecturer in early years, Liverpool John Moores University and part of the Early Childhood Education and Care Sustainability Forum


Close of conference