This year the National Ploughing Championships take place in Heathpark, New Ross, Co. Wexford from the 25th – 27th September.
Nearly 200,000 people are expected to attend the 3 day event, with the actual ploughing only making up one activity among a range of outdoor events including sheep dog trials, pole climbing, vintage exhibitions, the Irish Axe Factor and welly throwing. With such a range of activities the whole family are definitely catered for and best of all, children under 12 are able to enter for free, once they are accompanied by an adult.
In its 81 year history the National Ploughing Championships have evolved from a simple ploughing competition into a broader celebration of life in the outdoors. This immersion and love of the outdoors is something that early years educators should be striving to cultivate in the children in their service.
Celebrating Life in the Outdoors
Early Childhood Ireland, in partnership with IT Sligo, has recently surveyed 1,700 parents looking to find out how often children play outdoors and the types of activities that children engage in most frequently.
We have found that children play outdoors for approximately 2 hours during weekdays and 3 hours during weekend days. Additionally, the research suggests that children engage in activities that involve a lot of sedentary time (sitting down time); these activities include watching TV and playing computer games. This is a real concern as previous research suggests that a lack of outdoor play is linked to an increased risk of mental health issues, bullying and overweight and obesity (Burdette and Whitaker, 2005)*.
Taking children out to enjoy events such as the National Ploughing Championships is one way to celebrate life in the outdoors. However, there is no need to wait for big outdoor events to do this – it can be done on a daily basis (whatever the weather), as the following resources on our website demonstrate:
Mud play allows children to connect and interact with the natural world around them and is therefore a perfect way in which to nurture a familiarity and love of the outdoors.
Please visit our Mud Play page for further information on how to set up your own mud patch and for ideas on possible mud based activities.
Early Childhood Ireland Collaboration with the Zoo
Early Childhood Ireland has recently launched 2 new pre-school programmes called “Winter Woolies” and “Farm-tastic Foods.” These programmes are a practical and interactive way of encouraging young children to make the connection between their food, their clothes, the farm and nature.
The programmes run until Friday 26th October 2012 in the Family Farm classroom at Dublin Zoo.
Up to 22 children can be accommodated at a time and Early Childhood Ireland members are entitled to a special offer of one free child space with every 10 spaces booked (€6 per child) in addition to free entrance to the Zoo for the teacher and up to 10 adults accompanying the group
Bloom: Garden of Possibilities
Early Childhood Ireland has recently published a fantastic Outdoor Play Publication (incorporating links to Aistear and Síolta) based on the “Garden of Possibilities”, a natural play space which was built for Bloom 2010.
The Bloom DVD provides ideas about what works and what is of interest to children in the outdoors. It also highlights cost effective ideas for practitioners and parents to incorporate into daily activity (whatever the weather).
The Bloom DVD and accompanying booklet can be purchased from the publications section of the website.
Learning Stories: The Mart
Learning Stories are an ideal way in which to document the learning taking place within your service. They can also be an easy means of updating parents about the types of activities their children are involved in on a daily basis.
Often the events that take place in the outdoors can result in the most engaging and vibrant learning stories, such as the example of “The Mart“, in which a boy called Conan demonstrates his knowledge of the processes involved in going to and coming from a mart.
The story shows how children are able to make sense of their world, through outdoor play in particular.
* Burdette, H.L., and Whitaker, R.C. (2005) Resurrecting Free Play in Young Children: Looking Beyond Fitness and Fatness to Attention, Affiliation, and Affect. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 159:46-50.