If we want our outdoor areas to be as versatile as possible then we need to keep big fixed features to a minimum, and those that we do install need to be as ambiguous as possible.
On my travels I see lots of wooden trains and pirate ships which often dominate the middles of play spaces. They have often been chosen by adults because the have an initial 'wow' factor – but believe me, the wow factor for lots of children soon wears off!
A huge part of our role is to expand children's imaginations and experiences whilst at the same time giving them opportunities to consolidate the things that are happening in their own individual lives.
A pirate ship will get some children giddy with excitement and they will transfer whatever experiences of pirates they have into their play. But a pirate ship is always a pirate ship which is a shame if you want to role play taking your car to the garage or going to the shops.
Even if I really LOVE the idea of pirates (which I do!) as a child in EYFS I can only play what I know and if I haven't travelled much further than the local area and I don't have experience of a range of pirate stories, then I am restricted to role playing Peter Pan or Pirates of the Caribbean. If I don't like pirates, then I am a bit stuffed!
I would always try to keep your structures ambiguous and purposeful therefore they have the maximum potential for imaginative play AND they actually impact on developing children's emergent physical skills.
Last week in Bishop Auckland I saw a CRACKER of an outdoor structure at Oakley Cross Primary.
Check this out…
It is made from windfall logs and has lots of spaces to play/create/hide as well as ropes and nets for upper body, spacial awareness, balance… the list goes on. Plus it is all natural so tonnes of opportunities for KUW investigation and so much more.
It was a large piece of nylon net which then had short lengths of florist ribbon, in camouflage colours, tied all over. The children then peeled the ribbon (a bit like a cheese string) to get the fringing. You HAVE to have a go – it was ace!
They even had a couple of large scale pulleys with buckets which (with a bit of effort) allowed you to transport heavy loads across a fair distance, great for problem solving and also building up strength and coordination in the upper body.
The name of the company who did the work is …
Enjoy some inspiration surfing!