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Lorraine Flaherty – Researching Outdoor Sleeping in Early Years with BA (Hons) Early Childhood Care and Education

BA (Hons) Early Childhood Care and Education

Lorraine Flaherty – Researching Outdoor Sleeping in Early Years with BA (Hons) Early Childhood Care and Education


Lorraine Flaherty – Researching Outdoor Sleeping in Early Years with BA (Hons) Early Childhood Care and Education

Lorraine Flaherty is a passionate and experienced early years practitioner from Galway who is upskilling and pushing her knowledge to new levels by gaining her BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Care & Education at Portobello Institute.

Inspired by outdoor sleep practices in Scandinavian countries, this degree, which includes a research project, is facilitating Lorraine to carry out new academic research on a topic that is of massive interest to her and has the potential to be of benefit to others.

As part of her studies, Lorraine is researching outdoor sleeping for babies and toddlers. She explains where her interest in this came from.

I have been very interested in the Scandinavian early years practices and outdoor sleeping. During Covid, we had been exploring the outdoors a lot more to reduce the spread of infection. So that encouraged me to implement outdoor sleeping for babies and toddlers.

“During the summer of 2021, I set up a canopy for the children to shade them from the sun, it was the perfect space for children to sleep as extra shade was added using sheets to block out the sun, allowing the children to get enough fresh air and listening to the sound of nature as they slept.

“At my setting, we have an outdoor classroom which provides shelter for children if it is raining. A risk assessment was carried out before setting up a sleep arrangement to ensure it was safe for children,” she said. 

Lorraine explains that a child fell asleep in her arms one day and because they were already spending so much time outdoors, she was inspired to set up an outdoor sleeping area, this was supported by her manager and approved by Tusla.

The main reason why I wanted to complete my degree was so that I could carry out a research project on outdoor sleeping as I wanted to do more research into the topic and how it is carried out in Ireland and around the world.

The module that influenced me the most is leading practice with children as I lead the outdoor sleeping for children by communicating with parents and practitioners about the importance of sleeping outdoors through interactions and questionnaires,” she said.

Lorraine has worked at Newtown Kids Club at the Nursery for the past nine years with babies and toddlers and has also worked with preschool and after-school children. She completed her level 5 and level 6 before she started working at the Granary, and then decided to do BA (Ord) Early Childhood Care and Education part-time which she completed in 2019.

She took a break from studying for a few years and in the spring of 2023 she decided to further her studies to complete her BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Care and Education at Portobello Institute. 

I think it is very important to keep up to date and continue to learn and gain information and knowledge in relation to the early years. This helps to improve my skills and my confidence and improve learning and development for babies, toddlers, and young children. 

As policies and regulations change regularly it is important for educators to keep up to date with new knowledge and information that is occurring in early years.

I decided to study with Portobello Institute as I work in-person on weekdays and having classes online allows me to be able to attend classes in the comfort of my own home. The classes are also recorded which gives people a chance to go over the recording if they miss class or to go over information that is needed for assignment. The tutors are also very friendly and helpful in guiding students  throughout the assignments 

As I am doing an add-on year to complete my honours degree I had to complete three modules before I started my research project. The tutors for each of those modules have been very helpful, explained all the information clearly and helped students if there were any problems.

“My tutor for my research project has been very helpful in guiding me on the right path and explains clearly what information needs to go into each chapter of the project,” she said. 

At Portobello Institute, each student is assigned a personal academic tutor to support them throughout their learning journey. They are available to offer you telephone and email support and you can arrange to meet them for further one-to-one guidance at a time convenient to you.

Particularly for this level 8 BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Care and Education, you will have the opportunity to match with a tutor who has experience in your topic of interest, to help and guide you in the best possible way.

Lorraine says she would highly recommend Portobello Institute to a friend for the standards delivered by the tutors and the flexible learning opportunities on offer.

“Yes, the tutors make studying easier and more enjoyable to attend and listen to, they provide very positive feedback on assignments that leads the educator on the right path.  

“Also if students are looking for online classes then I would recommend Portobello, if you cannot attend a class they are recorded which helps aid students if they want to go back on a recording for an assignment. 

You can delve deeper into Lorraine’s academic research project in our Knowledge Zone article where she explains her collaboration with other European practitioners which is also contributing to her research.

Our service is actively involved in the Erasmus Plus programme and this funding supports job shadowing opportunities between different European partners.

“My colleagues and I had the opportunity to visit three settings in Sweden in December 2023. We got to job shadow and learn about their curriculum, teachings and sharing of different ideas that we could incorporate in our own settings.

“I also got to see how children slept outdoors in -6 degrees wearing appropriate clothing and weatherproof bedding keeping them nice and warm in cold temperatures.

“We hosted a group of Danish educators in January 2024 who came over as part of the Erasmus Plus project and job shadowed over a three-day period where they got to see how we operate an outdoor setting in the Willows and Nursery.

“They got to experience how children in the nursery explored the outdoors in all weather types as they would like to encourage their children to explore more in all weather types.

“They all discussed that children sleep outside in strollers and have sheltered areas to cater for all weather types so children sleep outside all year round.

It was a lovely experience having to share our culture and heritage sites around our community,” she said.

If Lorraine’s story has inspired you, you can reach out to our early years academic advisor Sarah Coyne today, book a 15-minute consultation call, email [email protected] or call 01 892 0028 to start your educational journey with Portobello Institute.

Portobello Institute’s Early Years department has qualifications ranging from level 5 to level 9. We offer:

Other courses you may be interested in include:

Visit our Early Years department for more.

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