Moray Council is offering nurseries across the region a share of £30,000 to support outdoor learning.
Every nursery has received £500 and every childminder in partnership with the council has been given £200 to spend on outdoor resources as part of the Covid-19 recovery measures support.
All settings had already been working towards increasing and improving their outdoor provision as part of the Early learning and childcare (ELC) expansion of funded hours, but the pandemic has made it all the more important to get youngsters out of the classroom.
Robin Paterson, senior project manager of the ELC expansion, believes the desire to get children outdoors for learning will continue to grow.
He said: “Exposure to nature through outdoor learning is not only an incredibly valuable experience for children but has an added importance in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The emerging scientific evidence and health advice indicates the virus is much less likely to spread out of doors and is therefore the safest place for children and adults alike.
“We expect that there will be strong legacy from our partnership approach with our private, voluntary and independent (PVI) providers that will continue to change the way we perceive ELC.”
Zoe Williamson, manager of VIP Childcare in Elgin, also welcomed the funding boost.
“This funding has come at a welcome time for our nursery and others like us,” she said.
“While we already incorporated outdoor learning as standard this will enable us to invest in outdoor play equipment and expand our outdoor provision to allow more time outside.”
Leann Cairns, a childminder in Lossiemouth, added: “We know the benefits to children of being outdoors, both in their health and learning.
“Therefore this funding will enable me to develop more activities to enhance the time spent outside.”
During lockdown Earthtime nursery in Duffus, which already specialises in outdoor learning, has been used as a childcare provider for key worker families, with about a dozen young explorers attending every day.
Natalie Campbell, Earthtime’s forest school manager said: “At the moment there are experts talking about ensuring classrooms are well ventilated when they go back – if you’re outside you don’t have that concern.
“We have children outside about 90% of the time, we try to use the environment to enhance the learning while making it specific to the environment they’re in.”