Outdoor Role Play

abc doesBoys Learning, Child Initiated Learning, Creativity, Environment, Outdoors, Role Play, TalkLeave a Comment

Harryhill-500 'Now, I like themed role play and I like deconstructed role play – but which one of them is best? There is only one way to find out…FIGHT!

 I had a really fascinating day the other day back at Stanley Primary (the one with the ducks – more of that later). I was there to evaluate the den making project and also to look at why Creativity points 6,7,8,and 9 were still so elusive, especially for the boys. It turned out that the solution to the latter was in the examination of the former – does that make sense? Maybe it will if I show you some pictures!

Stanley is a 3-form entry Primary and the Reception share a large outdoor space (also shared by an on-site but independent day nursery). At the moment, although they don't have 'playtime' the three Reception classes don't go out together. They have an allotted time slot in the morning and afternoon where they go out as a class. (By the time I left yesterday they were resolute that they were now going to implement continuous outdoor provision for all 3 classes – result)!

I spent my morning observing the role play of the children from each class in turn. In terms of role play opportunities that had been created by the adults they had two choices. Each was placed at opposite ends of the outdoor space.

Choice One – Themed Role Play – Pirate Ship 

I am not the worlds biggest fan of this type of outdoor structure. Although it has some pluses I have always found that boats and trains etc can really limit children's imagination because they can only ever really be one thing. That is why when I work with settings on setting up an outdoor area I encourage them to keep their structures as non-descript an multifunctional as possible.

Choice Two – Deconstructed Role Play – Den Making

This is a quick to assemble space full of things that can be anything along with a selection of 'real' objects selected by the children to enhance their play at any one particular time.

Both of these areas have their uses – but for me the ship is far more limited. What it is good for is giving a first hand experience of something that has got all of the main features of a real ship. If you couldn't visit an actual ship this would be a lot better than a card board box. But it will always be a ship and as for the cardboard box, well…. It can be a million things, but only if the child has had experience of a million things to transpose onto the box.

Deconstructed role play does NOT work as well if it is just a pile of boxes. It is important to enhance the boxes with 'real' objects for children who need that first hand experience.

 If I am working with a setting to introduce this sort of role play I have found that it is best not to just clear away the 'vets' and dump a load of boxes. There needs to be a period of introduction and modeling for the children. So I usually take away most of the structure and ask the children what they would like the area to be and then work with them to build it, theme it and enhance it.

As they get more used to the process, they will do this independently which allows for greater freedom of play.

Children can only effectively use deconstructed role play if they have a prior knowledge of real events and real objects that they can transfer to the boxes etc using their imaginations. The more limited their experience the more limited their play.

With regard to those higher level Creativity Profile Points, well…After lots of observation of the children in the environment  and discussions with the staff about planning and the curriculum,we concluded that there were not enough opportunities  in the 'everyday stuff'  for children to practise those skills and also for staff to be able to observe them and make a secure judgement.

We looked at which skills points 7,8 and 9 require children to be secure in. Then at the planning to see when there would be occasions for children to demonstrate them. What we found is what I find is the case for lots of settings. The times when children are given the opportunity to show high level creativity, tend to be 'events' like a class assembly or an end of term production. Children are usually heavily directed by adults at these events and therefore don't show that they are independently competent in those skills.

If we want children to truely embrace all that 'Creativity' entails then we need to ensure that our environment and planning offers regular and varied opportunities to experience, practise and demonstrate.

I said that I would give you a Stanley ducks update. Well, turns out that all of their eggs were eaten by crows and the staff had hoped that the mummy duck might lay another clutch. Although daddy duck has returned to the pond on several occasions he has come back on his own. Mummy duck is nowhere to be seen – Oh dear!

Our ducklings seem to be literally growing before our eyes! They are loving their bath and fascinating to watch – they don't half stink though!


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