Now that schools have returned, most senior leaders are struggling just to make the logistics of children having lessons, eating, and coming and going from school safely. Despite these challenges, we believe that the provision of plenty of quality outdoor play is more important than ever and should still be a high priority for schools.
We’re working with our OPAL schools to help them to provide the best possible quality of play for children within the constraints they are facing. As part of this support, we recently ran a special web conference with Mark Hichens, our consultant microbiologist, to understand the science behind transmission and how it can be applied to playtimes.
Here are five of the resulting top tips to help your school navigate playtimes during the pandemic.
1. Natural loose materialsdisperse the viral load almost instantly. This means that sandpits, earth digging, pebble pits are all very low-risk play resources.
2. Water with a bit of washing-up liquid or bubble-bath added is a great play resource. Not only is water and bubble play great fun but it actually helps kill the virus.
3. Fixed play equipment exposed to the natural elementswill be ‘safe-enough’ after 24 hours outside, but we advise 72 to be extra sure. This means equipment can be accessed by one cohort for the week, left from Friday lunchtime until Monday lunchtime, and then used by another cohort without the need for time-consuming cleaning.
4. The same principle above is true for all weather-resistant large loose parts and bikes and scooters. They can be left out over the weekend and used safely by another group on Monday.
5. Playing outdoors poses much lower risks than doing anything indoors. With sensible hand washing routines this reduction in overall risk means that cohorts will be safe-enough sharing play resources during outdoor playtimes.
Research shows that play contributes to children’s physical and emotional health, wellbeing, approach to learning and enjoyment of school. Given the importance of play in children’s lives and current concerns about children’s physical activity levels, mental health and educational attainment, there are considerable benefits for children and schools in making the most of playtimes.
Protecting play: Low resource ideas for supporting play during lockdown by Rachel Murray
coronavirus lock-down has meant life has changed dramatically for children and
simple everyday activities present new challenges. If children are to thrive, as
well as making sure our children feel safe and are well looked after, we also need
to allow play to continue. In supporting children’s play, we need to ensure as
much freedom of choice as possible for children.
normal times these freedoms include where and when they play, who they play
with, and how they play. During lockdown, many of these choices have been lost
or greatly restricted, as playgrounds are locked, friends remain at home and
schools are largely closed. Parents, carers and children find themselves in new
and unexpected circumstances. However, what has not changed is that play
remains vital for children’s physical and mental health. It is still important
that we try and protect children’s choices and let them play and be playful during
this challenging period.
appreciate that different families are facing different issues at this time. Here
are some low resource ideas to help support children’s play during lockdown. We
hope there will be something of use to you, or that they may spark a play
memory or an idea that you can make your own.
Top tip – Use what you have
Don’t be put off by Facebook posts of parents building entire wooden
playhouses, of greenhouses full of perfect seedlings or 8 tier rainbow cakes
with extra sprinkles! Work with the skills and interests of your own family.
Use what you have in your house and within your means. Play does not have to be
expensive – pots, pans, cushions, blankets, dried pasta and rice, felt-tips,
recycled plastic bottles, clothes pegs, paper and washing up liquid are all
great play items.
Classic party and playground games –
no resources needed
There are a reason that some games persist through the years and can be
classified as ‘oldies but goodies’. Here are some simple playground and party
games that require no resources and can be played in or outdoors.
games – Granny’s footsteps, What’s the time Mr. Wolf?
Hiding games – Hide n Seek, Sardines. If you’re short on space, hide a toy.
Clapping patterns and songs – pat a cake, See See my darling, A sailor went to
sea, sea, sea. You might know some others. Some have nonsense or cheeky lyrics!
Make up your own! The British Library have more info here: http://www.bl.uk/playtimes/videos/an-intoduction-to-clapping-games
Rock-paper-scissors (or the more complicated Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard,
Guessing game classics – I spy,
Charades, 20 questions
Low resource creative play
Den building – use blankets, cushions, pegs, sleeping bags. Find more ideas
Junk modelling – use recycled materials to craft unique creations and
contraptions. If your house can cope with a little overspill and creative mess,
creations can be added to over a number of days.
Colouring, sketching, painting, printing – use what you have! Potatoes,
fingers, feet, toilet rolls, brushes, feathers, Lego etc.
Loose parts art – nature inspired if you can play outdoors (search Andrew
Goldsworthy or James Brunt for inspiration; think sticks, stones, daisies,
dandelions, cherry blossom). Man-made loose parts could be Lego, cocktail
sticks, buttons, dried pasta, rice of beans, whole spices, sequins or just
small squares of paper.
Dressing up – it doesn’t need to be real costumes. Hats, ties, waistcoats,
wigs, headbands – who are you going to be?
Put on a show! – dance, sing, play instruments, learn the Cups song or The
GitUp dance, pretend to be Simon Cowell, hand up a sheet to make a pop-up
Bubble play – washing up liquid and water will do. What makes a good bubble
blower? Try out slatted spoons, sieves, flower pots, bend a paper clip, use a
toilet roll tube. Or make a bubble-snake! – https://youtu.be/MJPCNaefZ4I
Low resource active play
Obstacle course – indoors or outdoors. How can you stay off the floor?
French Skipping – also known as Elastics. If you don’t have other people to
play with, you can use chair legs to hold the elastic. Classic rhymes (England
Ireland, Scotland Wales…), or make up a routine to a current tune.
Target challenge – ‘shooting hoops’. Use a soft ball or a rolled up (clean!)
sock and chuck it at a bucket! Make up a
points system, move the bucket further away or have several goals.
Hopscotch – use chalk to mark an outdoor course; masking tape works well on
laminate floor and carpet.
Get outside for your daily exercise – if you can, get outdoors. Go for a walk,
a scoot or a ride. Make your own ‘spotting lists’ or ‘treasure hunts’ before
you go. Can you find a flying insect, a purple flower, a yellow car, a graffiti
tag, a rainbow in a window?
Community supporting playful ideas
Draw a rainbow to display in your window. Mix it up – how about a rainbow Pokemon
or a rainbow heart? How can you add your own creative twist?
Window wonder – use your windows to help entertain others! Hide teddies for a
‘Bear Hunt’, or eggs for an Easter egg hunt. What else would the children in
your neighbourhood like to see? You could leave positive signs for friends that
walk past your house or draw their favourite toys and TV characters.
Paint and hide rocks – use sharpies, paints, old nail varnish. Wash your hands
before you paint. If you pick up a rock from outside, wash it for 20 seconds
when you wash your hands.
Make some noise – if you take part in a ‘clap for support workers’ event, you
can make your own shaker or musical instrument to make some noise!
Dig out old games Is there
anything you haven’t played with in a while? When was the last time you played
Snap? Or did a jigsaw? Have you got an old console that you haven’t used for a
while? Have you got any toys tucked away that haven’t been played with for
Don’t worry, be silly! Talk like
a pirate day– ooh arr!Have a backwards day – clothes on backwards, walk backwards, pudding before
dinnerLet someone else do your make-up, and wear it out on your daily exercise
Funky hair dos – let someone give you a funky hair style and wear it for the
Swap clothes with someone in your family
Kitchen disco – turn the music up and dance, dance, dance
and don’t forget…….THE FLOOR IS LAVA!
Murray is a mentor for OPAL Outdoor Play and Learning
non-profit organization dedicated to improving play in schools
Play is essential to the mental and physical well being of children wherever they are. During the period of lock-down we will continue to support schools, parents and carers with ideas to enrich children’s play opportunities. We will do this by posting links to the many other organisations providing great ideas, posting bi-weekly updates of ideas from the OPAL team and linking with some of our national partners.
OPAL Community Interest Company has helped make play better in hundreds of primary schools and early years settings. Our experienced team will be able to help you create happier playtimes, create better play spaces and enable staff to support wonderful play through our OPAL Primary Programme and our design and advice services.