Making the Design of Childcare Services 'Universal'

- the Universal Design Guidelines for Early Learning and Care Settings

The main principle of ‘Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people, regardless of their age, size, ability or disability'

Here we highlight some key information about internal and external spaces, however, you can read about this & lots more in the full document, which is available at:

Key Internal and External Places

While Ireland has historically focused on indoor learning for Early Learning environments, it has now been recognised that the outdoor play space is of equal importance and, while it provides for a different type of learning opportunities, a balance of both indoor and outdoor learning spaces are the ideal for Young Children. 

The Universal Design Guidelines advise that the children’s spaces should be at the heart of the Early Years Setting and should be designed in conjunction with the outdoor play space allowing children to easily access outdoor play.

Linking the design to specific Siolta Standards can help with identification of quality supports under these standards as well as Standard 2: Environments.

A large multi-purpose central lobby area is a great addition to any Early Years’ Service it is suggested that this space can be used as a communal area for the children as well as family areas where adults can spend time with their children at drop off and collection, it also provides an opportunity for parents to meet up with each other.

Other design features advised in the Universal Design Guidelines are:

  • The inclusion of a comfortable family room which may be doubled as a waiting area or social space for parents and staff.
  • A communal dining area provides opportunities for children of mixed age ranges to interact with each other and allows for children to take their time eating and chatting at small intimate tables alongside an adult at each table. This communal eating space also allows for children to become involved in food preparation reflecting a traditional home environment and thus promoting emotional warmth and security to children who may spend long hours in full day care.    

In relation to the internal spaces for children the Universal Design Guidelines advise that:

  • The environment and equipment should promote play, movement, adventure and challenge as well as appealing to all of the senses without over stimulation or distraction. 
  • A variety of spaces for children possibly including split levels.
  • An abundance of natural light using blinds when necessary.
  • Calm visual space with pastel colours and an avoidance of clutter including too many visual displays.
  • Flexible and adaptable spaces allow for different age ranges of children to use the space appropriately throughout the day/week/ year as required.  

A Universal Design Guidance checklist is contained within the publication at the end of each section allowing the reader to consider the criteria against their own service designs.

The Guidelines provide guidance on design features for different age ranges including features for Children under 12 months, 1-2 years, 3-5 years and 6- 14 years.

Each of the age ranges include guidance criteria which may be used as a checklist for Early Years settings providing services for children within these age ranges.

*** *

More on the Universal Design Guidelines:

These guidelines are an important step in making all Early Learning and Care services accessible to all children.  This publication offers guidance on the refurbishment, renovation and building of centres for Early Learning and Care in Ireland.

The work was undertaken by Early Childhood Ireland and Trinity Haus (Trinity College Dublin) on behalf of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design at the National Disability Authority.

These guidelines set out the key Universal Design considerations and guidance for Early Learning and Care (ELC) settings in Ireland.  The guidelines apply to both new-build and retrofit projects and provide a flexible Universal Design framework to ensure that settings are accessible, understandable and easy to use for all children, staff, families and visitors.

The guidelines are equally useful for small, medium and large settings and are flexible enough to apply to retrofit or minor work to existing settings, or to guide major redevelopments or new-build projects. 

Full guidelines available at:

Recent changes to Parental Leave in Ireland mean that parents now have an additional 4 weeks per child of unpaid parental leave.

This leave can allow parents greater flexibility to work, while also being able to spend more time with their children. While there are financial sacrifices to make, these are often not as large as many fear (see Irish Times article: ‘Earn more than you think while working less’).
If it is financially viable, the cut in pay can be well worth it. If your child is very young they can really benefit from extra time with their parents at this crucial bonding time, in fact the government’s new strategy for children ‘First Five’ sets out the goal to help parents spend most of a child’s first year with them, and indeed for less need for full-time childcare for the under 3’s.
For older children who may be going through a bad patch, taking the time to slow down and spend more time together can certainly benefit your child. There are benefits for parents too, in terms of reducing the stress of trying to care for children while working full time. These benefits filter down to the whole family and can lead to a greater quality of life overall.
In Ireland a lot of child care falls to women and there is a need to encourage fathers to avail of parental leave also, and for society to accept father’s role in this regard, giving them the space to provide care for their children also. This is the model in some other countries and seems to be where we are headed eventually.

So what are your entitlements?

Parental leave entitles parents to take unpaid leave from work to spend time looking after their children.
Since 1 September 2019, you can take 22 weeks of parental leave for each eligible child. You must take parental leave before your child’s 12th birthday.
Before 1 September 2019, parental leave was 18 weeks for each eligible child and parents could only take parental leave before a child’s 8th birthday.

Citizens Information website, 16th Sept 2019

This is due to increase by a further 4 weeks in September 2020. There is also a plan to introduce paid parental leave, beginning with 2 weeks per parent, in a child’s first year.

Many parents use parental leave to reduce their working week (if an employer can facilitate this) or else in blocks, for example following maternity leave, or over summer holidays. The exact configuration must be agreed with your employer, however once your request is within the rules of parental leave an employer cannot turn it down. See full rules here:

This week and next preschools are welcoming new children and their families to their services.

Most parents have already organised a preschool for their child by now and are looking forward to the next stage their child’s life. This may be a very sensitive time for both the child and the parent, it may, for many parents, be the first time their child has been away from them for any length of time.

Many preschool services will have sent an introduction letter to the parents letting them know what to expect for their child’s first few days in preschool.

It is important that parents know that the Preschool teachers are ready for the settling in phase and are totally committed to ensuring that the child is comfortable and happy from the start. Many parents will want to stay with their child for the first day or so, which is generally accommodated by Early Years Providers.

It is essential that relationships and routines are consistent, predictable and responsive to support each child's attachments, their sense of trust, security, competency, identity and belonging, their social skills and sense of independence.

Having a “Settling in” policy will greatly help with the induction of new children. This policy should outline how the services goes about settling in new children this will need to specific to your service and a copy of this should be given to parents when their child starts.

Think about how parents are supported in separating from their children, encouraging parents to spend as much time as they can at the service at first and gradually shorten the time as the child becomes more comfortable.

Encourage parents to develop consistent goodbye routine or ritual that they can use with their child each day such as giving the child a kiss or a big hug, waving good-bye from the door, or whatever they and their child feel comfortable doing. This way, both the parents and the child will know how to handle the parting.

Ensure that time is allowed for child’s Key Person to talk to the parents about bringing items from home that are important to their child, for example, a favourite soft toy or blanket, photos of family members, or a recording of themselves reading a favourite story or singing a familiar song.

Children get confidence from seeing warm, positive and friendly interactions between important people in their lives, like their parents and teachers. Good communication with your child’s parent also helps you share relevant information and helps the preschool teacher know how best to respond to each child.

Transitions can be difficult for young children as well as their key worker, it is important that you plan for transitions and placements that provide consistency and continuity for children and their families.

Evaluate the quality and effectiveness of transitions throughout the day using various means, including playful transitions, observations of the children and feedback from their families.

Parents may find the transition of leaving very difficult so it is important to support parents in being or becoming advocates as they transition with their children into this service from home. This may help with the settling in and empower both the parents and the child.

Try to keep the transitions throughout the day as simple and as few as possible, for example moving from one activity to another, or from one part of the daily routine/ schedule to the next.  

Try to ensure that children are given advance notice visually, for example: visual child centred daily schedule posted at the child’s height.

It is considered important to recognise that some children need to be given more time, support and assistance to cope with changes in activity levels and/or types of activities, than others.

Include special information on each child’s registration form including any pet names, comfort toys/ blankets etc. and how parents sooth their child when they are upset. A photograph of the child’s family posted on the wall or in a book can help with children making the transition from home and making the connection between home and school.

All parents need to be informed of the policy and procedures regarding settling-in on enrolment. Staff members will check with parents that they have read and understood the policy and provide any assistance needed.

Regular parent updates on how children are settling in and the activities they are involved in throughout the day will help with the parent’s connection with the service and help develop the relationship between the Key worker and the parent with the child at the centre.





Is your child starting primary school? We have tips for parents..
It won't be long until the next group of Junior Infants are heading to school in September, Marie Dowdall our Information and Training Officer has some tips to help both parents and children prepare over the summer:

  1. Make sure your child can do tasks by themselves, like unbutton and button/zip up their coat, use the bathroom independently and open their bag and lunchbox. Practice this as much as possible as some zips can be tricky! 
  2. If possible, casually go and visit or pass the school over the summer and sell it like an exciting and cool place to go. Maybe make links to children/siblings already attending. 
  3. Have a fun day out buying their school items, like school bag, pencil case, new coat and shoes. Ensure that they are all labelled and your child can easily identify them. 
  4. Let them have fun trying on their uniform, if they have one, or let your child plan what clothes they will wear if they don't have a uniform.
  5. Plan the school morning routine together and maybe practice the school drop. Don’t forget to add time for traffic if it will be a car drop off. 
  6. Play “school” with you child. It will be fun time together and may encourage your child to talk about any anxieties or worries they have. 
  7. Be available to talk about the start of school if your child wants to discuss it. Acknowledge their worries but reassure them that they will be ok. 
  8. Help your child to recognise their own name written down. Often their names will be on desks or on coat hooks and so being able to spot it will make their first day easier. 
  9. Recognise any anxieties you may have as a parent, talk about it with someone, if needed, and try not to project these onto your child. 
  10. Wear in their new school shoes, you don’t want your child hobbling around with cut heels because they have only worn trainers up to this point. Start them wearing the shoes a few weeks before school starts.

The National Parent's Council have a useful guide to the transition from early years to primary school, available at:


Safeguarding the Safety, Health and Welfare of the Child (QRF Regulation 23)

The purpose of regulation 23 is to ensure that the protection and welfare of the children in any childcare service is paramount, and the children’s safety and wellbeing is the priority.

As a registered provider, you must be committed to safeguarding the children in your care, and to providing a safe environment where they can play, learn and develop. The scope of this regulation addresses the following:

General Safety including; Correct heating and hygiene of Infant formula; Choking; Safety and storage of toxic substances; the safe use of blind cords: the use of finger pinch protectors; safe use of portable heaters; safety and maintenance of furniture toys and equipment;

Safe Sleep (Print a Safe Sleep Poster for your service)

Administration of Medication

Management of Outings (where undertaken)

Infection Control

Risks Management

Accident and Incident Prevention

Fire Safety and Fire Drills;


Regulation 23 provides the core requirements of regulatory compliance as well as individual roles and responsibilities.


(full information on this regulation, taken from the Quality and Regulatory Framework)

This, and all other regulations are available in the complete QRF document: We are focusing on particular regulations in these blogs to draw your attention to the detail of them, as we are aware there is a lot for childcare providers to keep up to date with.


It is the duty of every person carrying on a preschool service to take all reasonable measures to safeguard the Health, Safety and Welfare of the children attending the service and to comply with the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016 and the Child Care Regulations (The Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services)( Amendments) Regulations 2016.


Following on from the shocking exposure of bad practice in RTE's recent 'RTE Investigates' documentary, we recognise the high quality of childcare in the majority of cases.  
Over the next few weeks we will focus on QRF* standards which are particularly useful in the running of services to a high standard. This week we focus on Standard 9, which deals with Management and Recruitment of Staff.
*Tusla's Quality and Regulatory Framework was developed to help Early Years Services to meet the requirements of the 2016 Childcare Regulations.
Having the correct policies and procedures in this area is essential, we have highlighted these in our blog post below to allow you to refresh yourself on the requirements.
Essentially you must:

- Ensure staff recruited are competent and qualified.

- Have references to indicate they are of good character.

- Not allow anyone to work with children until they have received Garda vetting, this must also be renewed after 3 years.

- Provide a comprehensive system of support and supervision to ensure good practice is being followed and any potential problems are discovered and dealt with at the earliest possible opportunity.

- Encourage and support ongoing CPD (Continuing Professional Development) for your staff

- There should be clear lines of communication and it should be very clear who is in charge at any time.

As the manager it is your responsibility to be familiar with the following:     

Regulation 9: Management and Recruitment

The purpose of this Regulation is, that as the registered provider, you must ensure that an effective management structure is in place, and appropriate people are recruited to ensure the quality and safety of the care provided to the children attending the service. You must ensure that staff are competent to perform their roles by providing appropriate training, supervision and performance evaluation.

Core Requirements of Regulatory Compliance are;

  1. Governance » The service has clearly defined governance arrangements and structures that: set out lines of authority and accountability; specify roles and responsibilities; are appropriate to the size, ethos, purpose and function of the service; and are documented and available.
  1. Roles and Responsibilities » The registered provider and each person working in the service has a clear understanding of their own role and range of responsibilities to ensure the quality and safety of care provided to the children attending the service. The registered provider has established, and maintains, an appropriate administrative process, ensuring the effective operation of the service.
  1. Management » There is a designated person in charge. » There is a named person who can deputise if required. » The designated person in charge, or a named person to deputise, is on the premises at all times while the service is in operation. » The person in charge on a day-to-day basis is documented. Example: this could be an entry in the staff roster. » There is an alternative person in charge in the absence of both the designated person and the deputy. » There is a person in charge or a deputy at each place, where the service operates in more than one premises.
  1. Recruitment Policy » There must be evidence of the recruitment policy being implemented. » Relevant staff know the requirements, and have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities in relation to the recruitment policy. » Relevant staff have received training on the recruitment policy.
  1. Vetting» Ensure that vetting is completed before a person is appointed, assigned or allowed access to, or contact with, a child attending the service. » Each employee, unpaid worker and contractor is vetted. » Vetting documentation is available in English (or in Irish where applicable). » Vetting includes references and Garda/Police vetting:
  1. References: » At least two written past employer references if a person has been in previous employment. (One of the past employer references must be the most recent employer.) » References from reputable sources if a person has no past employers. » A reference, if practicable, from the childcare employer if the person was previously employed in childcare. » A reference from the registered provider if the person has been employed in the service for five years or more and does not have a previous employer. » All references must: from a reputable source; 2. be in writing; 3. be dated and signed by the referee, giving details of the referee’s position; 4. contain the address, phone number, logo or headed paper of the referee and the organisation’s stamp where applicable; Example: a letter with a college stamp. » be validated by the person’s employer or relevant organisation; » be kept (along with any other validations) in each individual’s file
  1. Garda/Police Vetting: » Vetting disclosure for the person is obtained from the National Vetting Bureau of the Garda Síochána in accordance to the National Vetting Bureau Act 2012. » Garda vetting is undertaken for any person aged 18 years and over. » Garda vetting is undertaken by the person’s employer or relevant organisation. » Police vetting, in so far as is practicable, is available for people who have lived in a state or country outside of Ireland for more than 6 consecutive months. Police vetting is undertaken by the individual and given to the employer. » Garda vetting for each person has been undertaken within the last three years, including Garda re-vetting.
  2. Qualifications: Each employee and a registered provider working directly with children holds one of the following: » A minimum of a major award in Early Childhood Care and Education at Level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications, or a qualification deemed by the Minister to be equivalent. » An exemption from the qualification requirement and confirmation that this exemption is accepted by the Minister. » The qualification requirement or relevant specialist training and the basis on which the capitation may be used for a person employed under the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM), detailed in an exemption letter from Pobal.
  3. Staff supervision; A staff Supervision Policy will be in place » There is evidence of the staff supervision policy being implemented. » Relevant staff know the requirements, and have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities in relation to the staff supervision policy. » Relevant staff have received training on the staff supervision policy.
  4. Information exchange » An effective internal communications system is evident within the service which enables the flow of information between staff and management. This is evidenced by: having time set aside for one-to-one discussions and staff meetings for staff to ask and respond to questions without interruptions, and to communicate important information and provide feedback to management about the service; having staff meetings facilitated by a senior member of staff. Minutes are taken and made available, and actions are implemented; and having one-to-one supervision meetings between staff members and their manager.
  5. Staff Training / Staff Training Policy » There is evidence of the staff training policy being implemented. » Relevant staff know the training requirements, and have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities in relation to the staff training policy. » Relevant staff have received training on the staff training policy.

Adapted from :

Tusla (2018). 'Early Years Quality and Regulatory Framework'.


For support in developing any of these policies please refer to “Developing Policies, Procedures and Statements in Early Childhood Education and Care Services” available at;

*A policy is a statement of principles, values or intent that guides decisions and actions, or (more usually) determines the decisions and actions to achieve a service’s goals. Policies help to ensure that you adopt a consistent approach – in line with the service’s principles and values – throughout the service. They provide you with a basis for agreed, consistent and well-thought-through decisions.


* Procedures spell out precisely what action is to be taken, in line with the relevant policy. They also outline the steps to be followed, or the way that a task is to be performed, to implement the policy. Clear written procedures can pre-empt issues that may arise. This can help to reduce the need to make decisions under pressure or to wait for a decision to be made by management when an issue arises. This is because the basis for decisions is made clear. You will have already made decisions when the policy was being developed — in consultation with all relevant people. Clear procedures provide for consistency and allow everyone to know what is likely to happen in a given situation.

We all know that for children entering a preschool/ childcare setting for the first time it can be daunting enough. Add to this the introduction of a completely new language, and often a new cultural situation and you can see why settling in is more difficult for these children.

As parents from other cultures understandably value their child speaking their own language and aim for them to become bilingual it is often in preschool that children encounter English for the first time. It is important that we understand the value of bilingualism for the child, while supporting them to eventually use English on a daily basis in our services.

You will see below that there are some great practical resources available which you can use with children in your services.

For children who are encountering a new language there seems to be agreement that language learning goes through a number of phases:

– speaking the home language (the child realises it doesn’t work)

- the silent stage (listening to the new language and learning routines)

- repetition and language play, use of formulae, routines and single words

– more complex English or productive language use eventually follows


The NCCA stress that the silent phase is not something to be overly concerned about, it is normal for children to take time to observe and listen in a completely new environment/ with a new language. It is vital at this time to provide reassurance and encouragement. If possible some use of the child’s first language is helpful at this stage. Including the child in activities with small groups of children and giving as many opportunities for child to child interaction is helpful. It is through these interactions and those with the teacher that the child will eventually learn language. At first this is seen with the use of single words and phrases, singing rhymes are also among the first use of English to be seen. It may take longer for the child to gain in confidence to use more complex English but with good support we eventually see this happening.

In the Aistear guide Supporting Children to Become Bilingual. Birth to 6 years. There are the following suggestions for the early stages:

Speak slowly and clearly. • Use pictures such as a picture-timetable to explain what is going to happen next. • Use gesture, pointing and objects to help the child understand. Encourage the children to do the same. • Identify words you use often and repeat them, for example, toilet, lunch, book and home. Have pictures of these items displayed low down so children can point to them. • Make short comments and name things that the child is interested in or is doing. • Give children extra time to respond as they will take longer to think of what to say.

Finally, patience is required, it can take children up to two years to be able to have a conversation in English, and up to five until they are fully fluent (NCCA).

Practical Resources


Does your child speak more than one language at home? Some guides below to support the second language acquisition process. 

 Bilingual Leaflet - English

 Bilingual Leaflet - Gaeilge/ Bileog Dátheangach

 Bilingual Leaflet - Russian/ Двуязычный листок 

 Bilingual Leaflet - Portuguese/ Folheto Bilingue

 Bilingual Leaflet - Polish / Dwujęzyczna ulotka

 Bilingual Leaflet - Malay / Risalah Bilingual

 Bilingual Leaflet - Czech / Dvojjazyčný leták

 Bilingual Leaflet - Arabic / نشرة ثنائية اللغ

Integrate Ireland. English as a Second Language: Activities for very young Learners.

This activity sheet has some useful ideas for the early years’ practitioner to use with children learning English as a second language, which include:

Suggestions of play activities to learn basic language, including learning to answer ‘what is your name’, describing family, body parts, food, days of the week. Using puppets, playing games to help interact & express themselves.

Also, from the UK based Early Learning HQ, there are ideas for practical activities:

and here


Referenced in the blog:

NCCA Aistear guide. Supporting Children to Become Bilingual. Birth to 6 years.

NALDIC. Supporting bilingual children in the Early Years.

By Joanna Fortune


We have to distinguish between anxiety and worry.  All young children will experience worry, or the uh-oh feelings, as I like to call them.  When young children are in a situation that is unfamiliar, they do not know what to expect, they cannot predict with certainty what might happen and perhaps Mam and Dad are not around (if I am at school, a party, a play-date, starting at crèche etc) my body and brain fire up to recognise this as being dangerous and my worry alarm is set off.  When my worry alarm goes off, I get a sudden energy boost that is going to send me into either fight (stay around and work through it, or perhaps stay and act out behaviourally) or flight (run away and hide) mode.


You see when our internal worry alarm goes off it’s like our brains flip our lids.  This means that my cortex area (the more logical and rational part of my brain) is off line and I sink down into the back of my brain where it is very hard to think or act in a rational way.  Our feelings need for protection and general survival instincts are all located in this more primitive part of my brain. But worry is a good (albeit unpleasant) experience. Worry is a form of protection and a little bit of worry can keep them safe by stopping young children from taking dangerous chances or touching things they shouldn’t.


Image result for child worriedSome children start to worry even when there is no sign of danger or anything unfamiliar to trigger their worry alarm system.  It’s as though they have false alarms in that area. For children like this even a thought or an idea can be enough to trigger their alarm and send them into fight or flight mode.  This is called anxiety and it is different to worry because there isn’t always a reason for the child to feel like they do and so they will begin to see danger in situations where it doesn’t belong.  Anxiety can run in families, it can be cause by stressful life events and sometimes a blip in our brain chemistry can cause it. Anxiety keeps a child in a state of what is called anticipatory arousal and this means that they are on high alert all of the time.  They are always watching for signs that they are right to feel the way they do.  Being in this heightened state makes it hard for them to concentrate in school, to keep their friendships, to take in what you say to them (so you probably feel like you are saying are you listening to me? A lot)


When you see your child’s worry alarm go off it is great if you can step in as quickly as possible.  Respond to the feeling rather than the behaviour you are seeing.Image result for sitting with a worried child

  • Have them sit alongside you and look out of the window.  Together name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can touch and 1 thing you could taste if you were outside.  This can be enough to reset the brain

  • Sit facing them and gently take their hands in yours.  Holding eye contact, simply take slow in/out breathes and ask them to do as you do, at your pace. This helps their nervous system move from fight/flight mode back to rest mode.

  • Have them draw or write about the worry.  What is the worst part of it and what would need to change to make it better?  Have them draw/write this new scenario and focus on this. Tasks like this help to reengage the more logical and rational part of the brain.

  • Re-direct them to a play activity with you.  Play with them. Young children rarely say “I have something I would like to talk about” but they do ask, “Will you play with me” and in their language that is the same thing.  They are asking if you will help them to process something.

Joanna Fortune is a Clinical Psychotherapist specialising in child and adolescent Psychotherapy, with over 12 years experience working with children and families. She regularly writes in national media on parenting and family issues.

To date we have shared the experience of Early Days Montessori and Hillhouse Preschool.



This week’s service is “Shining Stars Academy” based in Athy. “Shining Stars Academy provides a Full day Early Years’ Service and a Homework School Age Childcare Service.  Shining Stars Academy aims to provide an excellent environment for children to develop their social, personal and educational skills and learn through a planned play-based curriculum influenced by the Montessori philosophy and underpinned by the national curriculum framework Aistear.”


Shining Stars Academy


Our outdoor day was enjoyable for both children and educators. We are making provision for outdoor play each day and it is evident in our setting. We value the play (indoor and outdoor) as it has benefits to children’s health, social, emotional and physical development.



The equipment in our back garden is relayed with children’s interest. On the day we carried our routine as always; we brought indoor outside. We carried the circle time in the garden and as they were investigating musical instruments the fresh air and the space allowed us to experience different tones and vibes created by guitar, violin, xylophone and many, many more musical instruments.


Some of us enjoyed obstacle course as the space allowed us to use tunnels, two spring games, using balancing stilts, throwing balls into the designated container. We all felt that it was beneficial as we tried to be team players and cooperate with each other.




Our younger friends enjoyed hopscotch, mark-making with chalk and sensory play with water, spaghetti and leaves. Educators provided activities based on children’s interests and on what could be beneficial to stimulate in natural environment. We feel that that the children gained skills such as co-ordination, balance, confidence and self-esteem. We noticed that the outdoor experience also allowed the children to express themselves freely, without the limitations of indoor space and “indoor rules”.

 As a general feedback we can say that outdoor learning has a positive impact on children’s well-being, they are more relaxed and keen to explore world around them.

 Written by: Shining Stars Academy Staff Team






If you already acknowledge and support the benefits of outdoor play for young children and participate in outdoor play on a daily basis, then this is a day to celebrate what you are doing and inspire other services to get involved.

If your setting is new or needs to develop more outdoor learning opportunities for the children, then use the Outdoor Classroom Day to act as a catalyst for more time outdoors every day.

It’s easy to get involved and there is something everyone can do!  Help build a movement that gets children outdoors to play and learn every day!

Sign up to be part of the Outdoor Classroom Day movement today! 

Sign up here:

Last week we shared the experience of Early Days Montessori.


This week’s service is “Hillhouse Preschool” based in Naas. “Hill House is a not-for-profit initiative that aims to support the role of parents as the primary educators of their children and offers a programme of parenting, family, faith formation and cultural activities as well as mother-and-toddler groups and a pre-school facility”.

Read their story and enjoy the Photo Video Gallery……….


Hillhouse Preschool

Outdoor Play and Learning at Hill House Preschool

At Hill House Preschool, situated on Tipper Road, Naas, Co. Kildare, we appreciate the benefits of having outdoor play central to our daily routine. The children are at their happiest and most energetic at outdoor play. We see it as an extension of the classroom which compliments indoor learning. It is the children’s favourite part of the preschool day.


At Hill House Preschool we are extremely fortunate to have such an expanse of outdoor space, which allows physical movement for the children on a grand scale. It encourages exploring, creativity and imagination. It gives them the freedom to shout and make noise that they could not do indoors.

Hill House Preschool is a Country House setting. This makes it the most interesting outdoor environment to play and learn in. The children enjoy nature walks on its private grounds amid mature trees and interesting hedgerows. They get to live the seasons, connect with nature and respect, love and care for the environment. We have snack outdoors on fine days. The outdoors satisfies all their senses.

The children plant flowers and vegetables, adding colour to their outdoor space and learning where food comes from. The three classes do outdoor play together and so the children cross the divide of the classrooms and build on these friendships each day.

Hill House Preschool provides the children with a wide range of valuable outdoor experiences. They play in sand, water and mud. They search for insects and explore plants. The children build and construct. They jump on logs, chase bubbles, draw with giant chalks and play in tents/houses. Basically, they run, skip, hide, carry, pour, plant, dig, and play ball. They take turns and take risks with new things such as ride- ons, cars, trikes scooters and slide. They co-operate, share, problem solve, follow game rules and direct their own learning and play.

We were very enthusiastic, therefore, about getting involved in the Outdoor Play Day with Kildare County Childcare Committee. The children were so excited at doing the entire morning of preschool outdoors. A lot of planning went into the day. Tables, chairs, kitchen play areas, book areas were moved outdoors. The children never looked to go indoors throughout the morning. It proved to be an invaluable experience as the children moved between the different areas of play and learning. We realised there is nothing in the preschool routine that can’t be done outdoors. The visit from Kildare County Childcare Committee on the day, provided us with some great new ideas to add to our outdoor play going forward.

Year round the parents feel the value and appreciate the benefits of daily outdoor play at Hill House Preschool and they see how happy and fulfilled their children are as a result.

Written by: Valeria Larkin, Manager





If you already acknowledge and support the benefits of outdoor play for young children and participate in outdoor play on a daily basis, then this is a day to celebrate what you are doing and inspire other services to get involved.

If your setting is new or needs to develop more outdoor learning opportunities for the children, then use the Outdoor Classroom Day to act as a catalyst for more time outdoors every day.

It’s easy to get involved and there is something everyone can do!  Help build a movement that gets children outdoors to play and learn every day!

Sign up to be part of the Outdoor Classroom Day movement today! 

Sign up here:

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