Saturday, 28 November 2015

The importance of a playground. #ip-dip-dopp

Earlier this month I was fortunate to get the opportunity to visit Stockholm through Meynell Games' Ip-Dip Dopp Mobility scheme. You can find out more about Ip-Dip here:
Originally the visit was to look at the impact of the adult of children's play but the focus then changed to the training of those working with children outside of school time in Stockholm.
Whilst there, I took the opportunity to meet up with a fellow blogger who I had been on line friends with for around 4 years. It was lovely to meet up with Suzanne from Interaction Imagination & we also got the chance to visit her preschool for a morning.
Suzanne & I finally meet up in person, after years of chatting on line!
One of the days on our tour, we spent the morning visiting playgrounds across Stockholm with a landscape architect and member of the Swedish Play Association. Anna, explained how originally when many of the new apartment blocks were built around the city, it was intended couples who had already raised their families would live in them but instead many young couples and families moved in. Therefore there was suddenly a need to provide play spaces for children and preschools and schools. Now, when new housing is being built the ground floor is usually set aside for use by schools or preschools. This in turns leads to other issues as these spaces do not usually have dedicated playgrounds for the schools to use.
We saw lots of schools in blocks that had offices, shops or housing in the rest of the building. This meant that there were always lots of children evident in the city as we walked about, the younger children were in hi-vis vests walking with teachers whilst with the older children we noticed the teachers wore the hi-vis vests not the children.
Suzanne had explained to me many times that her school had no playground and therefore she had to take her class out and about to various play parks each day for them to have outdoor play experiences. We were lucky to accompany her and a colleague and their class to a great play park with lots of natural elements and there was another preschool in the park at the same time as us.
The class had to climb up a steep, muddy bank to reach this amazing play park, situated on a hill overlooking Stockholm.
Whilst I marvelled at the experience of choosing a park and then travelling by subway or bus to explore these spaces, I did have to wonder about the fact that the children don't have a familiar everyday play space to explore. I know that my class love just being in the playground some days & even when we come back from Bear Woods or being on a trip off site, they want to just play for a while in the playground. By being in the same space every day they can revisit familiar play types but also build upon their experiences and extend their play day to day. It is a well known fact that young children need the opportunity of repetition to master many skills and make sense of their world, we have all seen children try and try again to master a new skill e.g. climbing on a wobbly log or getting up on a structure. So I do wonder about those children in the Stockholm preschools who are not having these opportunities to build upon their skills through repetition - it is not as if they go to the same space off site again and again on a daily basis.
Suzanne did take us to visit the playground of an older preschool and it was easy to spot the more established ones as we walked about the city as they usually and a dedicated outdoor space attached to the building. Interestingly, though, these playgrounds must be available to the surrounding residents in the evenings and weekends. (The same was true of our partner school in Iceland)
The playground at Mosebacke Forskolor seemed a more familiar space to me, as a nursery teacher and it was great to see so many different areas zoned off for the children to use and interact with on a regular basis. Their loose parts display was one to be envied indeed. They also had an incredibly high sloping structure and climbing wall.
Apologies - it was dark when visiting the playground! Such a treasure haul of loose parts & a very steep climbing slope!
I think that is admirable that city planners are  making sure developers take the educational needs of children into consideration with every new site but I do have concerns that the free nature of play - just opening a door and allowing children to play in a familiar space is being lost to many in Stockholm. We saw some great play parks but they are not the same as a well used and resource playground.

Suzanne has written many posts on some of the many play parks around Stockholm - you can read them here:

A week of outdoor fun!

Here is a glimpse into a busy week of outdoor fun:
Monday was a morning of exploring watercolours, the painting the children produced were gorgeous and some managed to get really strong colours from the paints. Then some discovered that the bowls in the mud kitchen were filled with ice - they had so much fun playing with it despite the cold!
Tuesday - tragedy struck when the tap fell off the water barrel and all the precious rain flooded away, this class really does treat water a the precious commodity it really is.
However their disappointment was short lived, as we headed off on a bus for our first off site trip of the year. We went to our partner school, Sperrinview, to play in their great new playground. It was incredible to see how much this space has developed in just one year.

Wednesday was a fun filled morning playing with the bottle babies, lego and enjoying the new pallet den I managed to cobble together. The children quickly transferred all the books & house corner 'stuff' into the space and happily moved in!

Thursday is our outdoor day - when we spend the whole morning outside and light the fire, this week we cooked some apples with sugar, butter and chocolate chips - the sugar & butter turned into toffee! 

Afterwards some children cooked their own 'apples' on their fire in one of the willow dens. I love it when the children transfer their real experiences into their play scenarios.
Friday was a drizzly cold day - we really had such a mix of weather in just 5 days. I enjoyed watching the children just get on with playing despite the rain & it is always great to see them begin to accept all types of weather and take it in their stride. The water barrel was fixed but empty so some were delighted to find lots of rain water in one of the red tops.
The joys of transferring water from one watering can to another!
Here's to another week of fun outdoors! 

Monday, 9 November 2015

Embracing the rain!

September and October may well have been the driest months we have had for a long time but from very early on, this class was drawn to the water barrel in the playground & were so disappointed by the lack of rain! They emptied it after a few days and had to wait a long time for it to fill up again. We used to allow the children to use the hose and tap but then decided that they do need to learn about the conservation of water, so the water barrel is a perfect way to do this.
Like bees around honey - the children are drawn to the water barrel.
So November has proved to be a great month so far for this class as it has been so wet! They have been so happy to find the water barrel filled up each morning & have enjoyed emptying it before the morning is over
It is always frat to have a group of children who embrace the weather no matter what - even though we encourage this some years it is harder than others. But this year there is a group who love getting on their rain gear and playing in the mud kitchen or larger sand pit in the forest area. They spend time 'cooking' and making a variety of concoctions with water, leaves, sticks & whatever else they can find in the playground.
I think the following photos perfectly illustrate that with the right clothes & attitude there really is no such thing as bad weather.