EYFS – Physical development


We get asked many times how we cover the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) when we are outdoors without a classroom.  This will be the first blog about how we cover the seven areas of learning. This blog will cover Physical development.


We feel that this type of environment is the perfect starting point for early years children as it helps support children’s physical development in many ways. By giving children the opportunity to run around on uneven ground, to swing and to hang upside down, we help to develop children’s vestibular which co-ordinates eye and head movements and supports balance and equilibrium. Children spend a lot of their day running around and the more they do this the more skilfully they are able to negotiate the space.  However, when children start initially they tend to fall a lot. This is something we don’t acknowledge unless they have hurt themselves. This helps develop resilience and enables them to bounce back a lot easier.

Whenever I deliver presentations, I talk about how essential tummy time is for a baby in order to develop their central core muscles. Many babies are sat up too early and placed in bumbo seats or high chairs and are not given the opportunity to develop their tummy muscles. Babies first have to develop their core muscles, then their upper arms in order for them to develop fine motor skills which are essential for skills like handwriting. Other developmental problems that could happen as a result of these muscles not being developed are speech and language delay, as developing the core supports neck development which in turn supports the jaw, both essential for talking. As well as tummy time being essential, so is crawling. Many babies are missing out on key developmental milestones because they do not have the strength to move into the crawling position because the tummy muscles have not been properly developed. This potentially could have an effect on cognitive development as well as a delay in visual motor skills.

By allowing children the opportunity to freely move around the woodland, to spend their days climbing trees, to balance across logs, we help children to develop these essential muscles which are needed to develop solid foundations.

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The environment naturally allows children to travel with confidence and skill around, under and over branches and then through them too. It also enables them to negotiate space when playing chasing games and they know to avoid obstacles like roots and holes in the ground. When children have been with us for a few months we know that we do not need to supervise their climbing. They understand the need for safety and are able to risk assess how to manoeuvre safely through the tree. It allows them to experiment with different ways of moving and they have no problem jumping off trees and landing safely. Our exploration of the park allows the children to experiment with a range of movements like, scrambling, rolling, crawling, sliding and jumping.

Fine motor skills are needed for children to be able to write, fasten buttons and develop hand eye coordination. It is through all the big gross motor movements that we can then progress children onto writing. We use scissors for cutting, potato peeler’s for whittling, pens for writing, hammers and mallets for bashing and pegs for pegging all of which are really good for supporting hand eye coordination and  develop fine manipulative skills.

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Proprioception (Latin meaning “one’s own” “sense”) is the concept of knowing where our body parts are in relation to the world. It allows us to have a sense of where our feet are in relation to the ground and enables us to walk or run without having to watch our feet move. Proprioceptors are important as they send messages to the brain about the position of our bodies, for example, pushing, pulling, jumping, squeezing and bending all help with this. Proprioceptive input is important as it promotes success in both fine motor and gross motor activities and children should engage in activities that allow for active movement. Our environment supports this very well as children are active for the majority of the day and activities like den building, building bridges and mud play allow for development in this area.

Sensory experiences are also important for helping children gain an understanding of the world around them. The sights, sounds, smells and how things feel help stimulate the brain and strengthen neural pathways. Every day in the forest offers a different sensory experience as our sessions are dictated by the weather. A wet session is a very muddy session and everything feels, smells and sounds very different to that of a dry day, when the leaves may be crunchy and the mud dry, or a blustery day when the trees rustle and sing to us from the canopy above. We already have a sensory environment set up with many open ended resources without having to bring anything additional in.

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We passionately believe that children need to move to learn and we feel the woodland supports children’s physical development compared to other more traditional learning environments. In relation to Physical development within the  EYFS we cover so much without even having to try.




  • Hear, hear! Well said & I would argue that an outdoor setting is the best place to meet the physical development goals. Looking forward to reading the next 6 posts.

    November 8, 2015
  • Very good article, hope it reaches many centres!

    November 8, 2015
  • Sandy

    Out doors is the best way for any child to explore and learn, If only main stream schools could adopt the same ethos and core values as you, our future’s would look so much brighter with brighter, happy, well balanced children,

    November 8, 2015

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