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Creating Outdoor Environments for Young Children

A well-designed playground is a place where wonders unfold, offering invigorating and challenging activities that cater to the developmental needs of young children. The first five years of a child’s life are instrumental for brain growth, laying the groundwork for future learning and behavioural patterns.

In this course, you’ll explore the significance of gross motor, pretend, and social-emotional play. In addition, you’ll discover how to analyze playground equipment critically, merging manufactured components with loose parts and nature play. This is all done to develop enjoyable outdoor environments that support learning and growth.

By the end of this course, you’ll be able to:

Illustrate the significance of outdoor play for young children.
Outline the advantages of incorporating loose parts and nature play into a playground.
Recognize opportunities for gross motor and pretend play on a playground.
Explain how outdoor environments facilitate social-emotional growth and development.

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About this course

What will I learn?

What are the benefits of outdoor play? Of course, we know that physical activity is at the top of the list. It’s also a great way to promote social interaction and collaboration. In some cases, outdoor play can even teach children about math and science. Since play is so multi-faceted, it’s important to create outdoor environments that considers all of its benefits.

In this course, Angela Searcy of Simple Solutions Educational Services provides designers with meaningful ways to facilitate play. In addition, she goes over the benefits of each type of play and how to incorporate them on the playground.

  • Risky Play: Kids need to learn how to manage risk and assess danger. A good design should be just as challenging as climbing a tree, without the danger of falling or breaking a branch.
  • Accessible Play: Ensure that parts of each play space are accessible to different ages and abilities. For elevated play structures, provide a variety of paths that each user can take.
  • Imaginative Play: Consider more abstract designs so children have the freedom to imagine their own worlds. Also, include opportunities for dramatic pretend play (i.e. playhouses).
  • Nature Play: Include nature in a safe way. For example, incorporate shallow ponds where plants have plenty of water, but where children walk, the water is only a few inches deep.
  • Sand Play: Provide options to either play at a sand table or sit in the sand area. Include sand toys or diggable items in the area that children may use to enhance their playtime.

Who is my instructor?

Dr. Angela Searcy is a distinguished academic, holding a B.A. degree in English and a Secondary Education certification from the state of Illinois. She also holds a M.S. degree in Early Childhood Development, with a specialization in Infant Studies, from Erikson Institute. Lastly, she holds a Doctorate in Education, with a specialization in Response and Intervention Assessment.

Dr. Searcy’s research primarily focuses on brain-based learning evaluated by the CLASS assessment and its relation to aggressive behaviour observed in preschool classrooms. Currently, she is seeking her credential in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health from Erikson Institute.

As the Founder of Simple Solutions Educational Services, Dr. Searcy has carved out a niche for herself by providing professional development services for teachers, social workers, and caregivers. In addition, her expansive teaching career since 1990 spans all levels of education, ranging from infants to grade 9.

In addition to being an adjunct faculty member and seminar leader at Erikson Institute, Dr. Searcy is also a published author. Her resource book “Push Past It! A Positive Approach to Challenging Classroom Behaviors” was published by Gryphon House in 2019. She also serves as a professional development provider for entities such as Teaching Strategies, LLC, the Bureau of Education, and Teachstone.

Who is this course for?

The great thing about our courses is that they’re designed for all levels of experience. Whether you’re a parent on a PAC planning your first playground, or a landscape architect with decades of experience, there’s always something new to learn. Plus, our courses offer a quick way to stay up to date with the most recent trends in playground design.

Our courses take into account multiple groups and audiences, all of whom have different needs for their playground. A few groups that will benefit from taking our courses include:

  • Parents: Parent volunteers will learn the most important aspects to consider when planning their playground project.
  • Teachers: Teachers will learn about the educational benefits of play and how to incorporate them on the playground.
  • Landscape Architects: Architects will learn innovative design ideas that they may use in their upcoming projects.
  • Parks & Recreation: Parks professionals will learn about recent advances in safety, inclusion, and sustainability.
  • Property Managers: Property managers will learn how playgrounds can attract families to live in their neighbourhood.
Angela Searcy, course instructor for "Creating Outdoor Environments for Young Children."

Dr. Angela Searcy

Founder, Simple Solutions Educational Services

Dr. Angela Searcy is the Founder of Simple Solutions Educational Services, a professional development company for early childhood teachers and therapists. She is also a trainer, speaker, and seminar leader at the Erikson Institute in Chicago, IL.

More Courses?

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Playgrounds 101

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