Jan White Natural Play

Natural Play, Natural Growth, in the Early Years

About Jan White

Jan White

I work nationally and abroad as an independent consultant to advocate and support high quality outdoor provision for services for children from birth to five.  With twenty-eight years experience of working in education, I have developed a deep commitment to the consistently powerful effect of the outdoors on young children.

Having played key roles in developing Learning through Landscapes’ support for the early years sector and Early Excellence’s Stepped Approach to Quality Outdoors, I am currently an Early Education founding associate, associate with Playwise, pedagogical adviser for PlayGarden and mentor to Sandfield Natural Play Centre.  I co-founded and facilitate the UK network Landscapes for Early Childhood and am representative to the World Forum Foundation for the Global Collaborative OnDesign for Children working group.

I am author of Playing and Learning Outdoors: making provision for high quality experiences in the outdoor Environment (Routledge, 2008) and Making a Mud Kitchen (Muddy Faces 2012), editor of Outdoor Provision in the Early Years (Sage, 2011) and I collaborated with Siren Films to make the training DVDs Babies Outdoors, Toddlers Outdoors and Two Year-olds Outdoors (Siren Films, 2011).


“Jan is the UK ‘guru’ on outdoor learning and I have worked with her on many projects, both in the UK and internationally. Jan is very knowledgeable and has helped numerous practitioners to understand the importance of outdoor learning and its impact on children’s learning and development.”  – Laura Henry, Managing Director, Childcare Consultancy

“I was priviledged to have Jan in my team during her period with Learning through Landscapes. She was an innovative, inspirational early years outdoor play pedagogue, who was able to move the thinking and activity of our charity beyond our expectations.
Jan was involved in some of the most important work of the charity, including pulling together the Shared Vision and Values for Outdoor Play in the Early Years. This declaration was signed by over 100 key early years organisations, individuals and bodies, and was subsequently adopted in the EYFS guidance.
Jan left an important legacy with Learning through Landscapes and set us up for further successful partnerships aimed at improving the quality of outdoor play in the early years. I do not hesitate to recommend her work and will be seeking opportunities to work with her again in the future.” – Julie Mountain, Director of Operations, Learning through Landscapes

“Dear Jan, I can’t believe it’s only been a week since coming home from the OnDesign conference. I cannot fully express how pivotal meeting you has been for me. I have learned so much from you! Thank you for sharing your knowledge, expertise, and philosophy regarding children, play, development, risk management, connecting with nature, and so much more!
I have since downloaded the mud kitchen PDF and the managing risk PDF and have recruited two other staff members to help me advocate creating one at my site. I am optimistic that we can get it done. I look forward to reading more of your work and learning more from you. 
Thank you again for inspiring me. I consider meeting you to be a great blessing. Wishing you well in your future presentations and success in all of your endeavours.” – Jennifer Boberg, Teacher, Des Plaines Child Development Center, One Hope United, USA

14 thoughts on “About Jan White

  1. Hi Jan,
    Check out my blog at stompinginthemud.blogspot.com I have an under 3 year old play group and we play outside rain or shine.
    I know I will enjoy reading all of your articles. Thanks

    • HI Dianne! I’ve just been to your blog (linked from Let the Children Play) about mud play – to find myself quoted… I’m passionate about mud (my degree is Soil Science believe it or not), but even better, my daughter lives in Victoria and has just got her permanent residency in Canada (from the UK) – so next time I’m visiting, I must come and find you! Do get in touch by email so we can set this up!!!

  2. What a small world we live in. Yes, of course I would love to get together with you and also show you my little play space.
    Where in Victoria is your daughter living ?
    Take care and maybe talk soon.

  3. Hi Jan,
    What a wonderful blog I have stumbled upon. I love your no nonsense approach to being a voice for the children! I could learn a thing or two from that!
    I, like Dianne, have just started up. It’s been a long road getting to where we are. I got stuck in a little red tape, and it sucked up a large portion of my budget, so the backyard is poorly neglected. We are making great use of it, and jumping in with both feet! I have a large vision, and can’t wait to get started. Ideas and suggestions are most welcome:)
    I love the inspiring posts that you post, and can’t wait to hear more!

    • Hi, thanks for this comment – I felt I might be pontificating a bit! I like the look of your blog and you have a great blog list too – there is so much good stuff out there, and I’m so pleased to be linking with it all. With regard to your developing outdoors (where are you?) – the best advice is to let your children lead you (and the other advice is, have you seen my little book ‘playing and learning outdoors’ – it’s been very popular and helpful it seems). There is a wonderful phrase (I heard it from Sharon Danks in California): “Think big, take small steps, never give up”.

  4. Thanks Jan,
    I’m in Surrey (in British Columbia). It’s a lovely community for the children, and natural play is only just starting to come back… little by little!
    I have not come across your book, but i’ll keep my eyes peeled… it seems right up my alley. Our yard is enormous, and I don’t want the wonder of it all to go to waste. Many homes in this area are being built on tiny lots, making little to no outdoor space. So many children coming to me are perhaps a bit overwhelmed with even being outside. We’re trudging along. Right now, with all the rain we’ve been blessed with, it has lead to LOTs of mud play, and who wouldn’t want to jump in a mud puddle. I just can’t wait to see where else the space can go… perhaps i’m a bit impatient, so being reminded to take small steps is VERY helpful!

    • Just thought I’d mention that the book is available on Amazon! Info about it is also on my blogsite (which doubles up as my website). I know Vancouver area well – it’s really shocking to find that children in CANADA are overwhelmed by being outside! Sounds like they need all the nature, movement and freedom you can provide – hope your parents enjoy their children having experiences such as mud puddle jumping? Do you follow Let the Children Play blog – you’d get loads of inspiration there…

  5. Dear Jan

    Thank you for an inspirational talk about outdoor learning environments at the ECIS conference. My teaching partner and I enjoyed listening to your ideas very much and can not wait to share with the other teachers back in Zurich, Switzerland. We are very lucky to have a huge outdoor area with surrounding fields and a forest and cant wait to try out some of your ideas with our little ones.
    Thanks a lot

    • HI Fiona, sorry it’s taken me a while to respond to you – been dashing around the country since I got back. I had a great time at the ECIS conference in Athens, such enthusiasm and willingness to learn from each other. I’m delighted to say that a couple of International Schools have also contacted me to go and work a little with them further – I’m looking forward to that! It seems like a lot of the international schools are moving forwards rapidly, and taking inspiration from some very good places. I’d like to write a blog from the conference and would love to include some images from your outdoors – if you’d like to, please let me know and we can communicate via emails.

  6. Hi Jan
    Pleased to have ‘stumbled’ upon your blog! Always lovely when familiar names pop up! Loved this blog although I am heading into Autumn in Australia now. 🙂

    • Hi Niki, great to hear from you! I loved your report on the King’s Park Naturescape in Perth – truely out there in the front – have passed it onto my landscape design friends… What’s the reality for barefootedness in Perth through the autumn/winter months?

  7. Well, it’s autumn now and I still try and swim in the sea daily and am barefoot myself. The children are also still walking around barefoot…….I will let you know about winter when it comes!

  8. Hi Jan, your talk at the National EYFS Conference on the importance of physical development for childhood learning was so inspiring. There does seem to be a growing awareness that this area of development should be truly embedded into every child’s daily curriculum. As you said the joy of movement underpins not only a child’s physical health but also their mental well being. Many thanks and please check out our website www. tattybumpkin.com as I feel we share common ground (muddy of course!) Sue Heron, Tatty Bumpkin and paediatric physiotherapist.

    • HI Sue, we do seem to have a great opportunity with this revision to the EYFS (physical development identified as a prime area and given long-overdue parity with PSE and Communication & Language) to loudly raise awareness of children’s huge and desperate need for physicality and movement. Let’s definately find a way of working on this together! Do you know about Early Education’s national conference coming up soon on 12th May? It’s called ‘Life in Every Limb’ and has Sally Goddard-Blythe of the INNP, Penny Greenland of Jabadao and me as the speakers – also visits to the London Nursery Schools. Look on Early Education’s website for more info. Hope to see you there! Jan

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