A window with a view for babies

22 August 2010 · 4 comments

in Developing School Grounds & Outdoor Spaces, Early Years Outdoors

The other week I was visiting a super nursery in Aberdeen as part of a Grounds for Learning site visit. The staff are currently developing their outdoor space for the babies which is looking like this:



The piles of sand will become little hills. The staff plan to put a small and slightly elevated pipe through one of the hills for the children to roll objects down. Behind the hills will be three tyres inserted upright. As one parent pointed out to his child, the tyres come from different vehicles so are all slightly different. There was a motorcycle tyre and two different car tyres. Also out-of-sight, the staff plan to provide a variety of different surfaces for the children to crawl and walk across. A sand pit will also be created in due course.

The baby room is round the other side of the building. It’s a small nursery so this isn’t a problem as the staff understand the need for the children to have lots of time outside daily, all year round and in all weathers. However, the staff want to brighten up the view from their baby room. This is the view just outside the window:

If you look you can see one or two objects hanging from the trees…

So now…I’m asking for your ideas and suggestions. How would you brighten up this space? The babies can’t access the area, they can only see it from their window.

Here’s some of my thoughts:

  • Paint the wall a cream colour to complement the trees and shrubs. Rather than growing climbing plants up it, have it clean and calm so that the trees and shrubs are in greater focus.
  • Add a little more topsoil to the ground. Mulch the area and cover with bark chips to reduce the need for weeding, care and maintenance. Plant a variety of perennial flowers and bulbs so that there is always something in bloom all year round.
  • Use the trees and shrubs as a 3D display area. Whatever the children’s focus and interests are indoors, use the space outside to attract attention. For example, if a baby likes looking at a mirror indoors, then hang one or two on the trees outside. A child who likes teddies may find that one day there are some teddies having a picnic outside.
  • Put seasonal objects, e.g. decorate the trees with Christmas decorations in December. Have red colours as a focus during the Chinese New Year (red is considered a lucky colour in China, I believe)
  • Put up bird feeders and enjoy watching birds visit. Have pictures of the common garden birds that visit inside near the window for reference.

Please do tell me your suggestions – however small or grand – and I’ll pass them onto the nursery staff. Thank you!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

mad August 22, 2010 at 23:23

sounds like some good ideas…. only thing with the bird feeders its to ensure there’s cleanable paving/ground underneath to stop cr*p building up!

i like the idea of looking out and finding something new… dinosaurs, or monkeys taking over the trees…. or an outburst of flowers or butterflies. quite magical!

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jenny August 23, 2010 at 00:49

Firstly, oh wow, what a wonderful playspace for young children this is going to be. I love the idea of the small hills with the pipe running through it.

Secondly, I can’t think of anything to add to your ideas – I agree with the cream walls and the plants to add colour. Maybe behind the colour add some tallish grasses to contrast against the cream and that move in the wind.

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Teacher Tom August 23, 2010 at 03:33

I don’t really care about babies. They’re cute and we’re on good terms, but I’ve never had a connection with any but my own. When I meet the new sibs of my students I usually tell them, “Come see me when you can talk.” This often pleases the older sibling.

That said, I love your ideas about bird feeders and using the trees for 3-D and seasonal displays.

My instinct about the wall is the opposite of yours. My first thought was a black and white mural, possibly with lots of simple faces. I also thought about large mirrors which would create a lot of light and expansive reflection. I remember my baby LOVING to look at her own reflection.

Babies also seem to like to look at sparkly things. Mobiles with mirrors and prisms maybe.

I could also image a sculpture of some sort. The babies at one of our local shopping malls really seem to be drawn to the life-like bronze calf statue.

Or how about a real animal or two? Could there be bunnies out there? They’re pretty low maintenance.

As for the turf, the mulching would definitely be the simplest, tidiest solution if maintenance is an issue. Maybe some bulbs could be planted underneath it — they don’t take a lot of work. You could then have things like crocus in the late winter, daffodils in the early spring, tulips in the late spring, then any one of the many summer bloomers.

Beyond your question about this particular situation, I really like the idea of a real outdoor space like this, for kids to observe over time. I think I would definitely want a garden that bloomed in the spring, grew food in the summer, showed color in the fall, and was decorated by humans in the winter. I think a smart gardener could come up with something that wasn’t huge maintenance. Also, If I had such a space, I think I’d be tempted to use it for constantly changing “diaramas” (if that’s the right word). I would just keep my eye out for interesting objects and place them out there like conversation starters.

Whoo . . . you really got me thinking!

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Juliet Robertson August 23, 2010 at 06:43

Hi Kath – good point about the bird feeders – the amount of mess is incredible – the nursery is linked to a big oil company and so health & safety procedures are particularly tight. These may also be better sited away from any moving displays too.

Jenny – the pipe was one of those spur of the moment ideas. The staff had a big pipe and wondered what to do with it.,,,and well one line of thought led to another.

Tom – Regarding the mural – we had a long chat about the ability to repaint murals. We thought a basic colour using exterior paint would be a good start – then temporary ideas can be added on top if the staff wanted. Thanks for the heap of ideas. Just think all of these will help language development! LOL! Oh yes – I’m all for having a few bunnies outside. I’m really pleased in that the nursery where I worked last term is getting guinea pigs.

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