What can you learn from a walk along the high street?

Watch what Tristan discovers and explores as he goes for a short walk along his local high street to the park. Find out what stimulates his speech and language and how he is developing his thinking and cognitive abilities during what is a powerful and stimulating experience for this inquisitive two year old.

Good for looking at

  • Learning outdoors
  • Going for short walks
  • Exploring from a secure base
  • Attachment behaviour
  • Memory and learning
  • Learning and schemas
  • Need for repetition

Organisation

Going for very small walks in the locality just beyond the home or setting are clearly of great value and importance for two year-olds.

  • What enables or limits these in your provision?
  • How could organisation be changed to increase the amount that the locality and community are part of your outdoor provision?

Parents

If short walks into the locality and community are to be part of regular practice in a setting, the practitioners must know these places well, feel totally comfortable about taking children there and able to give the children enough freedom when they are there.

  • Discuss what makes this level of comfort possible.

Tristan’s Mum has a strong commitment to ensuring that he spends plenty of time outdoors every day, both as part of their routine and at his nursery. Whilst the garden provides much for Tristan, she has also long experienced the value of taking him out into the various outdoor environments in their locality.

He thrives on these experiences and especially on their familiarity. His well-being is served by his confidence that he will be able to go outside whatever the weather or time of year, and that he will be able to return and revisit these places soon: “come back later” and “come back soon” are refrains that he and his Mum share and that he knows will be true.

“Think of some ordinary, boring, everyday walk, the couple of blocks to the local 7-eleven. Taking that same walk with a two year old is like going to get a quart of milk with William Blake… The trip becomes a hundred times more interesting, even though, of course, it does take ten times as long.”

[Gopnik, Meltzoff & Kuhl 1999: 211]

Having walked at his own pace, without being hurried, along the street outside his house many times throughout his life, Tristan is alert to every feature and event, from the miniscule to the grand. What could easily be passed by in a hurry (in a buggy or car) as having no value to him, on the way to something more significant, is in fact very important to this ardent meaning-maker.

The immediate locality and community provide the most relevant and interesting spaces for two year-old explorers and these are the very places they most want to take their time in, to experience as fully as they can. Each time Tristan revisits something along this journey, he adds to his understanding, builds new thoughts and has novel ideas.

Because his abilities and thinking processes are constantly developing, he actually experiences the place in a new way. As he changes physically and mentally, new things become available in the same environment, so that the security of familiarity actually provides an ever-changing landscape of sensation and opportunity. The simple walk along this street has very high ‘affordance’ [Heft 1988] for Tristan; two year-olds do not need to go somewhere new all the time!

Tristan is fortunate to have both an active local high street and a local park with wonderfully natural areas on his doorstep and accessible on foot. The two outdoor environments both provide extremely rich and stimulating places for the unhurried two year-old. However, he lives in an ordinary part of a large city. It is possible to find rich places in most locations – for children of this age such places do not need to be large or exotic, but they do need to be experienced on foot rather than in a buggy.

Small daily forays into the local area can become a routine part of practice, providing another layer of outdoor provision (and a superb way of augmenting limited onsite outdoor spaces), when adults seek suitable and nearby spaces, become familiar with them so as to feel comfortable using them, and make regular, frequent visits and journeys in them with the same small groups of children.