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Muddy Faces

Squeezes & gaps

graphic of the word 'under' with a dynamic arrow curving under then pointing upwards

Active Boundaries: children in the Early Years (and of all ages) have an endless fascination with exploring boundaries; given the opportunity they will actively cross over, under or through them.

graphic of the word 'through' with an arrow pushing through the 'o'

Both inviting and challenging, squeezes and gaps require children to bend, crawl and squirm to travel under or through.

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MFW4605 Crawling under fence

The benefits of squeezes

Crawling, scrambling and similar movements support bilateral physical development. Physical effort and persistence are needed to push through or scrabble under obstacles, elevating heart rates and fostering resilience, all in the fresh air of the outdoors.

In his 1986 study ‘Childhood’s Domain’, Moore (2018) recorded children’s interest in ‘squeezing through’ places, where children pointed out small gaps and secret ways as landmarks important to them.

Types and construction of squeezes

It's essential to build any squeezes out of robust and durable materials such as wood, metal or stone. Children will exert pressure on the sides of a squeeze as they push through so it is imperative that they are constructed well.

Squeeze stile in the village of Box by Sue Brown 1 682x1024

Upright Squeeze

Squeezes that are navigated in an upright position.

These permeable boundaries demand effort and strategic thinking to pass through. Adjusting your body angle may be necessary, turning and shuffling sideways, removing bulky clothes, even breathing in, are all strategies that may be required to pass through a tight squeeze.

The squeeze creates a moment of enclosure, pushing against resistance until emerging into a new space. There maybe a sense of risk of potentially becoming stuck, but with determination and effort you pop out! A very different sensation to just walking through a gap.

Upright squeezes may already exist in your setting, between a fence and a building for example. Alternatively, you can create them by moving equipment so that its close to another piece of equipment or a wall, or placing hardy plants or planters side by side.

Adobe Stock 84031534 Preview

Low Squeeze

A low squeeze demands challenging movements like squirming, scrabbling, wiggling and rocking. They can be designed to be intentionally tricky to navigate, perhaps requiring peer support for some children to achieve. Low squeezes can be fashioned by digging a scrape under a fence or using sleepers on bricks.

When used frequently, the grass or surface under a low squeeze may become worn. To prevent mud exposure, ensure good drainage and consider placing protective membrane down. This could be covered in small-sized gravel.

Willow tunnel Natured Kids Franston Victoria Australia

Mind the gap

Gaps are wider than squeezes, requiring much less physical effort to pass through. While you may feel the sides of a gap, lifting or twisting your body is not usually as necessary. Walking through a low gap may involve a slight bob down, making it easily accessible for all children.

See also

Active Boundaries

graphic with the word 'over' with a dynamic arrow curving over it

Children in the Early Years (and of all ages) have an endless fascination with exploring boundaries; given the opportunity they will consistently cross over, under or through them.

graphic of the word 'under' with a dynamic arrow curving under then pointing upwards

The world is full of boundaries and edges, not only physical but also social, all of which need to be identified, explored and played with to be understood.

graphic of the word 'through' with an arrow pushing through the 'o'

Join us going Over, Under & Through (OUT) our Active Boundaries.
NEW and EXCLUSIVE to Muddy Faces.

Read More about Active Boundaries

Gates & doorways

graphic of the word 'through' with an arrow pushing through the 'o'

Active Boundaries: children in the Early Years (and of all ages) have an endless fascination with exploring boundaries; given the opportunity they will actively cross over, under or through them.

The allure of gates for children is undeniable; the simple act of passing through them, with their dynamic possibilities of swinging, opening, closing and securing can be a captivating experience.

Read More about Gates & doorways

Bridges & stiles

graphic with the word 'over' with a dynamic arrow curving over it

Active Boundaries: children in the Early Years (and of all ages) have an endless fascination with exploring boundaries; given the opportunity they will actively cross over, under or through them.

graphic of the word 'through' with an arrow pushing through the 'o'

Bridges & stiles appeal to children’s innate urge to climb and elevate themselves off the ground even when it is a challenge, perhaps because it is a challenge. Vertical exploration needs coordination, balance, strength & bravery. It can take repeated attempts and determination to master the skills needed to scale an obstacle.

Read More about Bridges & stiles
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