The two weeks of Easter have seen changes in weather, from cold days to the first definite signs of summer. With this comes bees and other insects, flourishing trees and plants and fast growing grass.
This has naturally offered a wide range of new play opportunities and new experiences for the children. What were open spaces have now become hideouts and dens that have naturally been created by new life growing.
We had one day at Girton when a group of children had created a snail house, using a tin found in our junk yard, with 4 or 5 snails living within it. One of the snails they had found had a broken shell and they nurtured this snail for hours making sure it was ok.
This was entirely child led and apart from the children wanting to show us the snails, there was nothing else that the children needed from the adults.
Great first days
We eased the children in nicely on the first day; Roald Dahl at Girton, Lego mania at Ridgefield and fun at the fair in Haddenham. All our activities went down well however it is always the play created by the children that is more important to both the children and staff.
Although we offer our four daily activities, these are only ever there to support children wanting something to do. They often spark of other ideas for children to continue with throughout the day.
You can always rely on children to take an idea and bring it to another level….
With our more adult led activities there is always the beauty of watching children taking these ideas to new levels, a great example of this was during a small activity making dream catchers. Most of the children were finding small sticks to create dream catchers.
A younger boy in the group came over and wanted to make his own, Lauren said he needed 3 sticks to make his dream catcher… after a few minutes he came back carry 3 sticks, each stick approximately one metre long. His parents were more than happy with his 1 and a half metre long dream catcher, however getting it home on a scooter proved challenging.
Children problem solving skills can be developed in child led play
A child came over to a member of staff asking them to untie some string from a tree. The staff member was happy to oblige. Whilst untying the string another child was waiting higher in the tree with a self-created fishing rod type implement. They quickly managed to hook the staff members hat off of their head and reel it up into the tree out of reach.
Tuesday was our trip day to Gulliver’s Theme park- read more on our trip to Gullivers blog.
Fun filled days
Lots more exciting activities took place including animal mask making, wood carving, campfire cooking, water balloons, water pistols and erupting volcanoes. These were just some of the staff created options available.
There was also a constant flow of children swinging backwards and forward on the rope swings, den building, board games, painting, making, digging, climbing, playing fantasy games, sports games and much more. Observations from staff showed we were hitting so many play types (see our blog on play principles and play types) within the setting just by offering play space for the children to be creative in.
Our holiday playscheme also saw Mike Mullen, World champion BMX stunt man attend our 3 settings to run an amazing BMX experience for the children. Starting with getting to know the bike, then moving on to small ramps and finishing with some truly terrifying tricks for the children to complete. With staff’s hearts in their mouths and smiles on their faces Mike jumped over them, as they lay on the floor, on a BMX.
From non-biker to BMX stunt man- Why risk is a benefit
There are moments where you realise the positive impact that play and risk-based activities can have on children. That moment came when a child turned up on the BMX day at Girton without any biking experience.
He was apprehensive about taking part but was willing to give it a go. In two and a half hours he went from pushing himself around the playground on a bike with his feet, to learning to pedal and finished by going over a small ramp.
The pure delight on his face was amazing (as you can see) and it is moments like this when we know that the job we do is more than just a childcare service but is creating a developmental process for children and can often take them out of their normal life and comfort zone.
Amy (playleader of Ridgefield) reported that Mike was so encouraging and supportive. One child was so scared of doing certain tricks however Mike always managed to win them around with patience.
Coddiwompling: To travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.
In the second week we had a visit from the Coddiwomplers, a family run willow weaving company that we met at the National Forest school conference last year. They turned up to our setting and fitted right in to our ethos.
They set up in a small area of our outdoor space and offered a whole range of different willow weaving activities including bird feeders, snails and plates. They also listened to the different ideas from the children which resulted in a willow woven skateboard.
Children came and went throughout the day and it was lovely to have a laid back outdoor space offering new opportunities for the children. At Haddenham they also helped with creating some small willow spaces within the outdoor area. This supported the work Emma and the team are already doing with the outdoor space.
Amy (playleader of Ridgefield) mentioned that she loved the day and it was brilliantly lead by the Coddiwomplers. The main thing was that all children could have a go and take something home whatever their age or ability.
Creating an outdoor space at Haddenham
Over the last few months discussions between the school’s management and ourselves have been on-going in how to adapt the outdoor space at Robert Arkentsall, Haddenham. We want it to become a space that fits our aims and ethos.
At the beginning of the Easter holidays, changes were beginning to take place in the outdoor space. Emma put her blood, sweat and tears into digging into the hard ground to create stepping stones and tables out of wooden wire reels. A welly stand has also been added to make the transition from outdoors to indoors easier for the children and staff to manage.
Emma has done a great job of working with the school to make sure that the children’s wishes, the school’s aspirations and the ethos of Smartkidz is in place in this environment.
What we found out
Overall the two weeks have been a massive success. Lots of new children attended and new staff took the bull by the horns and threw themselves into the “organised” chaos.
We reflect on the work we do daily. It could be as big as deciding a new outdoor area needs revamping or as small as moving a table from one area to another. Occasionally we even decide that certain activities were not popular and remove them from future activity plans.
After speaking to Playleaders at the end of the holiday we all expressed our amazement at the number of play types that are regularly met.
Our aims for this term
- After seeing what has been created at Haddenham, our Girton setting is looking into getting their own workbench to be able to offer a woodwork area for the children.
- With the children digging deep into the “what was a hill” we are hoping to be able to add a tunnel.
- After observations within the inside space it was noted that the quiet cubby hole was used a lot. We are looking into adding a similar space somewhere within the setting to meet demand.
- Ridgefield plan to create a junk yard, like the one at Girton, which will be full of loose parts to offer children more opportunities and build on their creativity.
- They are also hoping to install a tyre tunnel and stepping stones outside.
- The Haddenham team are now looking at adding a scrap shed into their outdoor space to offer more loose part opportunities.
- They are also looking at adding a kitchen space into the nextdoor room to help with snack preparation and cooking activities.