Benefits of the great outdoors

A childminder has been praised for her proactive initiative at encouraging children to explore their natural environment. Zoe Sadler, from Ellon in Aberdeenshire, has incorporated a number of outdoor learning activities into her duties.

Zoe looks for all types of opportunities to enjoy outdoor play

The youngsters in her care, who include two of her own, aged seven and 13, enjoy a variety of activities, such as building dens, climbing trees, splashing in streams, and visiting various museums and points of interest.

Zoe said: “Research is showing that children who spend significant amounts of time outdoors have healthier hearts and are less obese, have better motor skills, fewer infections and allergies, are less stressed and have fewer conflicts.

“Coming up to school holidays, the children and I make a wish list of activities by looking through the photo books from previous years to give ideas and we search for local events.

We then work our way through the list and decide on a week-by-week basis what we will do and when, depending on the weather.”

The mum-of-three is regularly joined on her outside adventures by fellow local childminder Vicki Noble and believes this provides an even better service as they share ideas and the two groups of children mix and build their social network.

Zoe’s ambition to be a childminder was only realised seven years ago and she is continually looking at ways to improve her service.

“Last year, I attended 12 different training courses ranging from supporting speech and language development, child protection and forest school training,” said Zoe. “We are lucky in Aberdeenshire, the council provide a very good selection of training courses to childminders free of charge. Continuing to further my knowledge and keeping everything fresh allows me to provide some of the best experiences for the children and their families.”

In support of the outdoor play, Zoe has built relationships with all the parents and created individual phone messenger groups for each family, allowing mum and dad to feel included.

Her efforts have earned her praise from the Care Inspectorate. Lisa Hendry, Care Inspector, said: “Zoe meets the needs of the children in her care really well, and is warm and nurturing. She loves being outdoors with the children. Outdoor learning is a big focus as it promotes children’s health and wellbeing, as well as developing their learning.”