The EYFS outdoor environment was unstructured and children who were overwhelmed by frenetic activity felt uncomfortable. Several children with ASD use the space. Physical play was well provided for, and there were a number of wheeled toys that were much enjoyed but had a negative impact on quieter activities and construction activities when the riders ‘mow down’ the careful constructions!

The exiting boundaries offered few ‘valued added’ features and were used to line up pots for planting vegetables. There were some linear benches and applied wall features too.

Compounding the problems was a route through the site to garden area which was used by the whole school.

A child minibeast hunting

This case study illustrates the value of a well designed fence which had a low cost high impact influence on the dynamics of the outdoor learning environment and the well being of the children within it.

After careful observation of play, and in discussion with staff and children, a route for the new fence was planned and then tested experimentally for a few days. After minor adjustments the details were planned equally carefully. This was to be more than a fence, but an opportunity to make places where different activities can take place. This required the fence NOT to follow straight lines, but to meander, purposefully, around exiting features. Within one of these meaders the fence became an art workshop for example, where the children paint on a variety of substrates, (including a fallen tree that was tied up one day!) Other places created included a big sand pit and a planted mini-beast hunting zone.

Children painting a tree in the art zone Child painting a tree in the art zone
Painting a tree in the art zone!

The impact of this was immediate. Physical play and ride on toys had their own space, and the new quieter area supported new engaging activities uninterrupted by faster physical play.

The long term benefits to the children are evident as the place is now more communication friendly, and the staff set up a wider variety of activity in clearly defined zones.

Children who had previously found the outdoor space challenging, find that they now have a transitional place where they can investigate the natural world, take part in group activity and from which they can observe the physical play, then join in when they feel ready.

The innovation here is that originally the ‘fence’ was perceived as a lot more than just a boundary or barrier. The design was very carefully planned to achieve multiple aims.

“With Felicity’s help we have created a better learning environment outdoors, with a better balance of activities”

Staff quotes


To develop your outdoor learning and school grounds get in touch
with Felicity on 07968 771582 or email