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 materials disperse 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 elements will 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.
Find out more about the OPAL Primary Programme and book a call with one of our mentors if you want to embed excellent playtimes at your school. The results really can be transformational.
Michael Follett, OPAL Director