OUTDOOR nurseries are giving children better learning outcomes, according to new Care Inspectorate figures.

The regulatory body has launched a resource to encourage early years establishments to take learning outdoors and urge parents to have less fear of the risks of outside play.

My World Outdoors gives information to nurseries in how to develop outdoor play, which has been shown to enhance children's learning, confidence and resilience.

But authorities said an attitude change from nursery staff and parents will be needed to achieve an increase in outdoor learning.

Aileen Campbell, Minister for Children and Young People, said: "This is partly about debunking myths about the risks involved in outdoor play.

"There are a lot of pressures that parents have. I'm a parent myself and I know that parents and families are doing their best and that we need to meet them halfway.

"When you speak to parents they all have memories of getting outdoors and being allowed to roam around - we need to encourage parents to give their children that same chance to develop coping strategies, resilience and build confidence."

"The Scottish Government is not providing additional funding to support nurseries to develop their outdoor play but we do offer many different supports to early years establishments."

There are currently 18 daycare of children services across Scotland which deliver all their care outdoors, regardless of the Scottish weather.

Woodland Outdoor Kindergartens (WOK), in Glasgow's Pollok Park, sees children spend 80% of their time outdoors.

New mums Alison Latta and Debbie Simmers were disappointed by the childcare options on offer when they had their children and decided they could do better.

They left their jobs and opened WOK, which has recently expanded to a second site in Dawsholm Park in Glasgow's west end and the nurseries see around 200 children each week.

Children are outdoors in all weather - rain, snow or shine. The nursery will only stay indoors in high winds, when the park becomes potentially dangerous.

Pupils are well equipped with weather-appropriate clothing, they eat their snack outside and there is a tent for a lavatory.

All learning is child-led and while risky play is well supervised, staff stand back rather than interfere in the children's play.

Equipment is what staff describe as "loose ends" - pot lids, paintbrushes and other items with no prescribed purpose.

The nursery's success is reflected in its Care Inspectorate report, which shows Grade 6s across the board.

Ms Simmers said: "Initially, when we opened, it required a bit of education to persuade people this was a good thing for children, to explain to them what we were trying to do.

"We can tend to wrap our children in cotton wool but they become safer by learning how to manage risk themselves.

"It takes a big attitude shift in staff as well. You're natural instinct is to help a child so our staff have to get used to standing back and giving children the confidence to do things themselves.

"We don't play with children, we support them."

Speaking of other nurseries that might wish to take their learning outdoors, Ms Latta said: "My biggest piece of advice would be to have confidence.

"A lot of nurseries who want their children to be outside have experienced resistance from parents who are perhaps concerned about the risks involved.

"They need to find staff who have the confidence to take the children out in all weathers, staff that are willing to be outside and not just viewing it as a box ticking exercise.

"And then, the children will be happy if the staff are happy."

Karen Reid, Chief Executive of the Care Inspectorate, said: "My World Outdoors will not just support nursery staff, it will help parents learn about the many benefits of outdoor learning and of exposing children to risk while also making sure they are being exposed to effective practice to be safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible, and included, the recognised wellbeing indicators.

"This is not an exercise in getting high marks at inspection. To be clear, this is absolutely not a box ticking exercise.

"Outdoor play has a hugely positive impact on children's learning and development and we want to support nurseries to use outdoor play."

Figures from the Care Inspectorate show 17 per cent of outdoor-based services gain Grade 6 in the categories Quality of Care and Support, Quality of Environment and Quality of Staffing.

This compares to six per cent, three per cent and five per cent respectively for children's daycare services.

Quality of Management and Leadership gaining Grade 6 is eight per cent for outdoor nurseries and four per cent for daycare services.

Marguerite Hunter Blair, Chief Executive of the charity Play Scotland, said the resource is a culture change in inspection values and goes a long way to children having an entitlement to play.

Ms Hunter Blair said: “This is a really good resource to encourage and support quality outdoor everyday adventures that can have positive learning and development benefits for all children.

"The book will also support the professional development of competent and confident practitioners.”