There is a lot to think about to understand the importance of choosing appropriate materials for the right age, both inside and outdoors. It must be safe, interesting, work for multi-ages/support learning at many age levels…as this can impact a child’s behavior. Choose materials that are appropriate and exciting, even household items, second hand, or good quality new items that will last lots longer as we know daycare children will use 10x more than normal family children will use. Share materials with other providers, let parents know what you need so they can donate. Less materials are actually more. Just remember to rotate so children don’t become bored and destructive. Begin with basics such as blocks, balls, puzzles, dolls, dollhouses, playsets. Remember, it is more important for the children to have playmates to play with than it is to have more things to play with. You want the environment to be child directed where they can get toys out no matter what age they are for what is appropriate for their age. This leads to responsibility, self direction, and self regulation. Each child needs to have their own storage space for their belongings within the daycare. You can re-purpose old tv cabinets into art centers or other things when closed no one realizes it is not part of the normal family equipment of the family in the home. Soft baskets work wonderful for infants, bins that two year olds can get off of cabinets are great. It is important to warn kids when it is approaching quiet times activities for infants napping. There should be a “quiet bag” of activities for this time for children not napping. Materials for outdoor space need to be with safety in mind for everyone. We shouldn’t fear children getting hurt outside. Outside time helps them develop a healthy immune system when they play in the dirt. Creative play outside is important for brain development. Nature Explore is a good source for outdoor play spaces. You can ask local park people about logs, tree stumps and tree cookies to use in your outside space to see if you can get these for free. In the outdoors, literacy can develop with a pencil for a child to write on a clipboard what they are learning about flowers, plants, bugs, the weather temp., the season it is, etc. It is important to get out even 20 min. in the winter snow to soak up the sun for Vitamin D. Of course proper clothing is needed. During summer outdoor play also need sunscreen, and bug repellent. Spending time outdoors helps infants and toddlers crawl, toddle walk, large motor skills. Children with ADHD that play in green grassy open spaces have milder ADHD symptoms according to studies. Play protects against life stresses to a general peace of well being. Vigorous play strengthens the heart, lungs, and muscles of children. Children can engage with their senses…smell things outside, they can hear things and learn to distinguish different sounds while being outside. Providers will have to make a safe plan for Epie pens, and asthma inhalers and keep them at proper temperatures while outside. A outdoor first aid kit needs to be available. All outdoor equipment needs to be stored as much as possible out of the weather to make it last longer. You need to know as a provider how to care for bee stings, and insect bites. There needs to be a weather policy about going outside for ex. when it is really too cold. (I have a laminated chart showing this provided to me from health care nurse that used to be at Child Care Resource and Referral). The outdoors can increase children’s imagination and creativity. They develop a sense of wonder. They will find opportunities to make decisions and problem solve, collaborate with their peers, promote language and conversation skills. It will improve their awareness, reasoning and observation skills. Positive effects on children’s ability to focus and pay attention. Children can learn to jump over puddles, sidewalk cracks, crawl and roll on hills of grass. They can learn about live animals outside.