What does “Outdoor Play” mean exactly? Playing outside? Cycling a bike? Splashing in puddles? Yes, but it is also so much more!

splashing puddles

DID YOU KNOW that you are encouraging a child’s understanding of the world by asking “Do you NEED your coat today!” Or that you are developing a child’s hand eye coordination (needed for writing) by asking them to point at an aeroplane in the sky!

But what are the obstacles for you as a parent in accessing Outdoor Play?
Safety? Time? Sickness? “Irish” Weather? Equipment?

Now, think back and ask yourself:

“Did you drink water from the garden tap and survive?”

Child Drinking from Garden Hose

Outdoor Play plays an important part in a child’s whole development and here’s a few examples why…
Encouraging and developing:

1. Self help skills like fastening coats, putting on shoes.

2. Coping with conflict and learning about consequences of actions

3. Extra opportunities to take risks with and without adult support

4. Freedom to run and shout, express feelings


TOP TIP: Imagine a child colouring on a piece of paper out in the garden. A gentle breeze comes along and tries to blow the piece of paper away. You are not there to catch the page. How does a child know to hold a piece of paper down with one hand and colour with the other?

There are lots of opportunities for developing the

1. Use and understanding of movement vocabulary – “in” “on” “under”

2. Early reading skills – by seeing and understanding that print carries meaning. road signs, parking, tickets, bus stop

3. Listening and memory skills
TOP TIP: Next time you are outside with your child – even walking from the house to the car – ask your child to list 3 things that they can hear and 3 things they can see. Are they different to what you can hear and see?

We are surrounded by maths without even knowing it:

1. Counting skills e.g. steps, lampposts, yellow reg cars!

2. Shape & size

3. Quantities – e.g. when playing with sand & water or planting

4. Measurement of distances

5. Observing patterns – e.g. Leaves, webs, cracks on path

6. Make “active” patterns – eg. hop, jump, hop, jump














TOP TIP: Do you still avoid walking on the cracks in the path in case you’ll fall in! Or how many lampposts/trees are there from your house to the end of the road? How many bricks are there in the pillar of your house?

The world is all around us is so interesting…

1. Observing & investigating living things – taking care of a pet

2. Growth and understanding the passing of time -Plant seeds

3. Observe changes in seasons and weather

4. Using & investigating their senses


flowers smellingTOP TIP: Stop and smell the flowers, allow children to run their fingers or sticks along railings-what sound does it make, kick through the autumn leaves or stomp on the crunchy ones, make rubbings of tree bark and their surfaces.

Of course we all associate our Physical Development with outdoors:

1. Hopping, jumping, climbing, running, skipping, throwing and catching…need I go on!

2. Abilities to steer, dodge, push and pull wheeled toys e.g. bike

3. More acute physical development by pegging out washing on a line, watering plants


Outdoor Play shouldn’t be an activity we dread or feel under pressure to do. As with most things – little and often is as good as if not better than one grand gesture!

Todd’s Tip: When you arrive home in the car why not stroll to the top of the road before going into the house – your coats are already on! Talk about what you see, hear and stop and smell the roses!

Here are some simple games and opportunities you may be able to work into your day:

“I spy with my little eye” or

“I hear with my little ear…”

Feeding the birds


Sand – a lunch box and lid in the garden/patio

Secret Sound Saturday (what can you hear)

Remember it’s often the process not the project that we learn from. Enjoy yourselves!

Giving you “a helping hand in those formative years”

For further information contact me on or 018384492


IMG_1686ps_ppAisling Ni Dhoibhilin is a qualified childcare professional & formative years specialist. Aisling has a passion for all things “Early Years” and supporting parents and families in those formative years. With 15years childcare experience behind her; Aisling is currently managing The Toddler Inn crèche & Preschool in Dublin 7.


Watching primetime made me feel sick to my stomach and I have often looked at James since he was born wondering how anyone could hurt kids, as they are so innocent and defenseless. Parenting is a cycle of guilt and as a single mother I always worry if I’m doing my best. But in reality we have to stand back and realize that as parents we are all doing our best. Each one of us has a different type of situation to cope with on a daily basis and as a single mother I rely on crèche five days a week.

I am deeply passionate about the formative years and early childhood learning and development, which is why I began my 0 To Toddler show. My crèche ‘The Toddler Inn’ came with good recommendation from someone I trust. I was completely clueless in the beginning and didn’t even know what questions to ask. I am lucky that I work closely with my crèche and the manager even toured the country with me last year on my show. James is happy and runs into crèche every day and some days doesn’t even want to come home. When I dropped him off this morning my heart went out to the girls who care for them as I know how much they care about the kids and we need to be careful that we don’t tar everyone with the same brush. We have good and bad teachers, good and bad doctors, good and bad restaurants. Staff will behave the way management allow and from what I saw on primetime last night I find it incomprehensible that no one from management witnessed this kind of behavior as it seemed to be ongoing.

We need to be careful about crèches popping up all over the country because we’re in the middle of a baby boom and people see it as a quick way of making money. Joanna Fortune from Solamh made a great point when she tweeted  “There should be aptitude testing for suitability to work in the Childcare industry, if you cannot show love & care to a child, wages irrelevant” I couldn’t agree more. Just because you want the job doesn’t mean you’re suitable. These girls last night were heartless, disinterested and dangerous to have around kids. There are lessons here for all of us. As parents we need to ask more questions, have access to government inspections and be able to drop in whenever we like to check on our kids. If your crèche does not allow drop in or does not answer your questions and concerns with urgency and priority it is a warning sign. The crèches in question have failed numerous inspections yet were still receiving state funding so in my opinion its rotten from the top down. We need to stand up for our kids and ourselves but be careful as parents we don’t point the finger at each other. I like many others have to work and put my child in a crèche and as a mum I do the best job I can do every day. A similar programme was aired about the abuse and neglect in old peoples homes last year. Maybe we need to look closer to home as how we treat our children and an old person says an awful lot about the society we live in.