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Barry Playgroup Awarded for ‘Best Outdoor Area’ in Early Years Wales Awards

West End Play Group in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan has won an award for ‘The Best Outdoor Area’ in the prestigious Early Years Wales Awards.

These awards recognise the passion and dedication of the early years workforce in Wales. Nurseries, playgroups and childminders offer a warm and welcoming place where parents know their children will be stimulated and well cared for. Throughout the pandemic, early years settings have largely remained open, enabling parents, many of whom are key workers, to continue providing vital services.

West End Playgroup has been developing its small but perfect outdoor space for several years.  Spending more time outdoors has been increasingly important as a way to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and the playgroup has embraced this concept and developed an attractive and inviting space for children and staff to enjoy. 

Previously, the outdoor area offered little more than a place for children to enjoy fresh air. Uneven ground made it unsafe, bushes reduced space for play, and a step between the concrete and grassed area was a hazard.  Today it is attractive, exciting and stimulating and the local community is delighted to have a colourful and well-maintained area on their doorstep.  All areas are accessible for wheelchair users and are enjoyed by staff and children. Staff have excelled at taking advantage of everything available to enhance opportunities for the children – grants have been secured, parents have volunteered to help with practical tasks, and an energetic team of childcare workers led by an inspirational manager has created a winning combination.

The benefits of spending time outside for both physical and mental health are well known.  Space for children to run around and strengthen bones and muscles is important for healthy development and can also lift mood and improve mental wellbeing. Staff at West End Playgroup have noticed that children who are upset indoors, quickly become calm and settled if taken outdoors. The space and environment appear to have a calming effect, with many children making new friends and developing creative games in a way that is not usually done indoors.

Fiona Kinghorn, Executive Director of Public Health for Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, offered her congratulations to the playgroup.  “This is wonderful news and I’m delighted that the hard work of everyone involved has been recognised.  Healthy and happy experiences in the early part of a child’s life are so important, and playing outdoors is a crucial part of healthy development.  Thank you to everyone at West End playgroup, and all childcare settings across Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan, for everything you do to offer such wonderful opportunities for our children.”

Catherine Perry leads the Vale of Glamorgan Healthy and Sustainable Pre School Scheme, and nominated the playgroup for the award.  Catherine commented, “The energy and positivity of everyone at West End Playgroup is amazing.  The outside play area is truly inspirational, including climbing frames and bikes, a water wall, tunnel, fruit trees, gardening areas, mud kitchen, quiet and reflective area – all in a very small space! Children are encouraged to make decisions about their play, and take ‘managed risks’ with staff always being close by, but allowing children to develop at their own pace. Thanks to Early Years Wales for organising these awards and recognising the huge contribution childcare settings are making to health and wellbeing.”