Asquith Day Nurseries boss invests millions on a nationwide ‘outdoor space’ revolution

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'Get your coats on kids – we know you’ll learn faster in the fresh air.'

A leading day nursery group is investing millions of pounds in a cutting edge ‘outdoor spaces’ project at its 78 locations nationwide as evidence grows that children - especially boys - learn faster outside.

As part of a new ‘fresh air is best for learning’ initiative, Andy Morris, CEO at Asquith Day Nurseries has ordered a total revamp of all garden areas and has instructed managers to open their nursery doors to the new-look ‘outdoor space’ areas as much as possible.

Specialist construction teams have been briefed to build forts, hobbit homes, Wendy houses; stages; water features and even picnic and market stalls, alongside traditional climbing frames, swings and slides to encourage children to spend more time outside.

Said Morris: “There has been a growing body of evidence in the past couple of years that children, especially boys, learn better in an outdoors environment. A National Trust report has talked about ‘nature deficit disorder’ and cited evidence that children learn more and behave better when lessons are conducted outdoors.

"We now know that children concentrate harder and soak up more knowledge in the fresh air – and our plan is to run a ‘free-flow’ system wherever possible so the children can just get out there and run around; tend vegetable plots, play on stage if they wish, or simply sit and listen to our managers and staff as they tell them stories.”

Cathy Hart, Asquith training manager, added: “Fresh air is proven to improve the brain’s neurological pathways. We know children’s brains develop in beneficial ways when they are outside. Girls still learn but it makes a big difference for boys. Boys want to do physical things…so how exciting is it for a three year old to have a new fort to play in? But it doesn’t stop with the fresh air and the fort. It gives our staff the chance to talk with the children about counting how many dragons there might be outside the fort and how they need to write their names on flags to hang on the battlements. The fact remains that if it’s fun children will learn – and if it’s fun outside they will learn faster!”

Before the new project began Andy Morris and Asquith’s head of property and maintenance, Francis Donegan, visited nursery sites to ask children what they wanted in their outdoor spaces.

Said Donegan: “It was a bit surreal. There was the CEO of one of the country’s biggest nursery groups, down on all fours with a three year old child, discussing the possibilities of building a fairy garden at her nursery. But as a result of that conversation, that is exactly what is happening. And we both decided that we wouldn’t put anything in any nursery outdoor space that we wouldn’t want to play on, climb up or jump off ourselves.”

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Trevor Lansdown

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