Early Learning Advice

The Best Outdoor Environment Design in Childcare

The importance of the outdoor environment in childcare has never been more important. As technology continues to advance and become more accessible, children are spending far more time behind screens and less time exploring the great outdoors.

While there can be no denying that technology can provide a wide range of benefits, outdoor learning environments should not be forgotten. These unique spaces offer children the chance to let off energy, play fun games and escape electronic screens. Here at Journey, we know how important it is to provide an outdoor environment in childcare, which is why our team encourage our future stars to get outside and connect with nature.

What are the benefits of playing outdoors?

Youngsters are increasingly spending less time outdoors, with research showing that weekly outdoor play has decreased by nine hours over the past 25 years. However, incorporating an outdoor environment in childcare is incredibly important and provides children with a huge array of benefits, including:


Encouraging children to get outside and play in the natural world is a great way to help them become fitter. With obesity on the rise, getting outdoors is a great way to reverse this trend and keep your loved ones healthier.

Stronger immune system

Not only does outdoor play help children to stay fitter, but it also boosts their immune systems. Being outside more often helps to increase the robustness and diversity of their microbes, reducing the risk of developing asthma, eczema, diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.

Active imagination

Regular outdoor play can also help to encourage your child’s imagination. Being outside in nature is a great way to get their mind more active and boost their creativity.

Understand nature

Spending time outside and exploring nature also helps children to understand the great outdoors and the importance of looking after the natural world that we live in.

How outdoor learning environments for early childhood can develop skills

Utilising outdoor environments in childcare is not only a fun way to get away close with the world around them, but it also helps children to build core skills they’ll need for life. Some of the most important skills gained by outdoor play include:

Staying active

When children spend more time outdoors and learning about the world around them in their early development years, they are far more likely to continue that as they grow up. Whether it is going for a bike ride, heading out for a run, or simply walking more frequently, they are far more likely to remain physically active in their adult lives.

Regular outdoor play also helps them to strengthen their muscles, while playing games such as catch can also help to increase their gross motor skills alongside their hand-eye coordination.


Outdoor learning can also help children to become more nurturing in their nature. Spending time outside can help them to better understand the world that we live in, letting them learn about animals, plants and habitats in a fun and engaging way.

This hands-on learning cannot be replicated by reading from a book or watching videos on devices and helps to teach children those vital caring skills that can help them throughout their life.

Social skills

Incorporating outdoor learning into those all-important formative years also helps to enhance a child’s social skills. Spending time indoors can sometimes be very noisy and overcrowded, so an outdoor environment gives them the opportunity to come out of their shells and engage with children on a more one-to-one basis.

Outdoor regularly requires children to play with others, which helps them to develop their communication skills and the importance of teamwork.

Develop independence

Of course, while outdoor play is great at helping to build social skills, it also gives children the chance to develop their independence. The vast space offered by being outdoors lets them be free and gives them the opportunity to choose the activities that they want to participate in.

Understanding risk

Another vital skill that children learn while playing outside is the understanding of risk. Whether it’s climbing a climbing frame, jumping off a ledge, or splashing in a puddle, children will develop the skill to make a calculated decision of risk vs. reward. This is an essential skill for navigating through life.

What to look for in a childcare centre

There are many benefits to incorporating an outdoor environment in childcare, but what should you look for in a childcare centre? While the ACECQA sets out the National Quality Standard, outdoor environments will differ from centre to centre.

Some might include large outdoor green spaces, while others might feature gardens or a paved area. Each of these spaces will have various pros and cons, so make sure you consider what learning environment will best suit your child. Some key things you want to consider include:

  • Amount of available space
  • Whether there is shelter (ensuring children can play outside all-year-round)
  • The frequency and length of outdoor play
  • Available play equipment 
  • Safety procedures and checks (including how often the equipment is reviewed and whether the outdoor space is checked daily for debris, animal excrement, and potential hazards).

Journey’s outdoor environment

Here at Journey, we made the most of the natural elements that were in the outdoor playspace and worked to enhance these whilst adding fun and new challenges for the children to explore. The core of the design is to enhance the outdoor learning opportunities for children to engage in and to experience varying challenges such as new fort with rock climbing wall and rope ladder. Defining age-appropriate spaces for children to investigate and participate in risky play.

Self-directed Play

Children are encouraged to explore on their own, with the freedom to self-direct their play in a supportive way that enables them to feel safe and secure.

Inspire Children to Work Together

Our outdoor play spaces also inspire children to work together with their friends to conquer milestones with confidence. We encourage our children to test their boundaries with a certain amount of controlled risk, while helping them to achieve different outcomes.

Outdoor playscapes at Journey Early Learning Centre Corinda, designed & built by Ausplay.
Outdoor playscapes at Journey Early Learning Centre Carseldine, designed & built by Ausplay.
Outdoor playscapes at Journey Early Learning Centre Whittlesea, built by ICM Construction.
Outdoor playscapes at Journey Early Learning Centre Ocean Grove, designed by Ausplay, built by Thoroughbred.

The importance of outdoor environments in childcare

There can be no denying that playing outdoors is crucial in helping to develop a child’s early development. Connecting with nature and spending time outside exposes children to a wide range of stimulants that can teach them essential skills.

Here at Journey, we know the importance of offering a varied learning program for children. We believe it’s vital that our little explorers get the chance to discover the great outdoors and connect with their local community, helping to inspire them through a host of cultural and fun activities.

Want to find out more about the outdoor activities we offer at Journey? Get in touch with our friendly team today!
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