Cuddly toys wedged in their arms or lollipops stuck in their mouths, huddled together, they listen attentively to the story of the day, never losing a crumb of the tawny’s adventures. Reading takes place outside, in the courtyard of the establishment. This is one of the particularities of the Saint-Maurice nursery in Lyon which, benefiting from a small park and a courtyard, has decided to increase outdoor activities for the well-being of children. A pioneering establishment, in a way.
Tuesday, the city of Lyon did not hide its ambitions: to see the spread of “open-air” nurseries everywhere by the end of the mandate. Establishments where all activities take place outdoors, including meals and naps. And whatever the weather. The first of its kind, located on the Mandela esplanade in the Part-Dieu district, is due for delivery in 2023. The second, erected on the site of the former Trarieux clinic, should follow a year later. The concept has been around for a long time in Denmark, Switzerland or Germany. And recently in Paris. Lyon’s elected officials have also made the trip to the capital several times to observe what is being done and glean advice.
“They let off steam to be outside”
“The staff assured us that they would not go back to work in a regular nursery for the world. Spending time outdoors helps children get better sleep. This develops their motor skills, improves their concentration and lowers their aggressiveness, ”argues Steven Vasselin, deputy in charge of early childhood at the city of Lyon.
“We immediately notice a change of atmosphere. When they play in the park, the children spend time hiding behind the bushes, looking for ladybugs, bringing back snails or small stones. Serenity sets in, they are much more appeased in the end, ”abounds Khadija Herhar, director of the Saint-Maurice crèche. “They take it off to be outside. When they are locked up all day, you can feel a form of electricity, adds Lucie, an early childhood educator. Inside, we have to delay the screams while outside, they are much quieter. “
In July, the establishment experienced the nap outdoors for the first time. An afternoon. “We stretched out a tarp in the yard and put the berths underneath to shelter the children from the sun. At first they watched and listened to the birdsong, we thought maybe that would prevent them from sleeping, that they would need to be in the dark. But not at all, they fell asleep much faster, ”says Sihem, early childhood agent.
“They were especially curious but not at all afraid”, abounds Khadija Herhar, eager to repeat the experience next spring. “It was the adults who had reservations at the start, not the children,” smiles Lucie. “After that, we’ll have to see how it goes when it gets colder. A single experience is a bit short to draw conclusions, warns Karine, early childhood agent. It would be interesting to renew the naps outside in the long term. “
Steven Vasselin is more confident. “In Denmark, they say that there is never bad weather, only bad equipment”, responds mischievously. And to add: “The key is to lift the brakes vis-à-vis parents. However, they can be reassured that the built structures will continue to exist. “There is no question of removing the buildings, they will always be essential to accommodate toilets, rooms where the little ones change, for shelter,” continues Steven Vasselin, aware that each nursery will not be able to switch to mode either. “Open air”, especially those which welcome infants. “Our objective is to strive towards this model as much as possible by providing structural solutions for existing establishments, by revegetating the courses while adapting to the context,” he concludes.