As the country basks in this glorious sunshine, whilst we want to enjoy this incredibly rare occurrence of such tropical weather, we must of course spare a thought for our children and how the heat affects them and what we can do to help.
On numerous early years and home-based childcare forums we are a part of, we have seen countless comments asking for ideas on activities to provide and opportunities within the environment that will support the children in this weather whilst also encouraging and maintaining learning and development.
As with everything we do, our advice would be, keep it simple. As professionals, we tend to over- think things; our environment, learning opportunities and ‘activities’. As a collective we seem to have lost the fluidity and spontaneity that Early Years professionals have always been renowned for.
Adverse weather (whether it be too hot or too cold) shouldn’t fill us with dread, instead it should inspire us to provide a range of stimulating opportunities for our children that will not only challenge them cognitively but will also support their physical needs as temperatures climb higher than they have probably ever known.
The summer period and particularly temperatures such as the ones we are currently experiencing are a great opportunitity for children to learn how they can look after themselves in the sun too (where developmentally appropriate.) This in itself provides learning experiences whilst providing the children with essential life skills and knowledge; the preparation part of being out in the sunshine.
Allowing the children to apply their own suncream whilst talking to them about the dangers of the sun and why we need suncream are incredibly beneficial and skills and knowledge they will take with them through childhood, similarly in regards to understanding the clothing we need to wear to protect us from the sun (hats, sunglasses etc.)
During such weather we should also consider our physical environments, both indoor and outdoor and how we can alter, set up and ensure these are suitable and supportive of the children’s needs and their learning and development too.
We all know that the hottest periods of the day are between the hours of 11am and 3pm and so we also need to be thinking about how this fits with our daily routines and how we can amend our routines to ensure we aren’t exposing children to the sun at the hottest times of the day. As practitioners we should be flexible anyway, but particularly during adverse weather.
You know your environment best and so you know what areas get the most shade and at what times of day and can set up your areas as a result of this, as well as preparing your indoor areas to ensure it is cool for when the children come back inside.
Similarly, if you choose to go on an outing during this weather, are there opportunities for shade? Is there access to water for children to cool down in? All of these are important factors to ask yourself when planning outings.
As practitioners we can sometimes forget that learning can happen everywhere. And so learning experiences and activities can be adapted and move both indoors and outdoors and vice versa, and so if the weather is too hot for the children, move your activities inside. Similarly, if the children prefer to be outdoors, move your planned activities outside and incorporate these into your outdoor play!
Recently we have added numbers to our paddling pool, made sensory soup in our mud kitchen and moved our tuff spot play onto the floor to enable the children to actively play in the water as they used different sized containers for emptying and filling as they worked together to make the water wheel work.
But again, let’s not over-think this……. putting the sprinkler or hosepipe on is not only a quick and fun way for children to cool down, but also a simple learning opportunity that can be set up in seconds from the comfort of your own home/setting.
As with anything, parental involvement is essential and ensuring that you have the support from the parents of the children in your care and that they understand the importance of providing the children with the appropriate clothing is essential (as well as gaining the necessary permissions for suncream application etc.)
So, let’s stop trying to think outside the box, let’s take it back to basics and join our children in ‘having fun in the sun’ so we are able to enjoy this wonderful weather with them, rather than worrying we aren’t doing enough for them.
Sunshine and the weather it brings provides us with countless learning opportunities and so let’s utilise these to give children the best experiences, all of the time!