Saturday, 2 March 2013

Doing Free Play at KidZone!

In case you are wondering, KidZone is the youth club I run for primary school kids! It is great fun and as it was the first thing I set up when I started the job, it's kind of my "baby" and I am really proud of how it has developed and the great team I have in place to make it all possible.

Free Play is something I brought in last year as a result of a Playwork module I did for my degree. In it we learnt that play is a form of learning and "work" for children, and can reach its best potential when the children have as much choice as possible. This is naturally within certain boundaries, and rather than being a crazy free for all, it is actually carefully managed. A good playworker is one who can create the best atmosphere for children to play and learn safely and effectively. Play of this sort is child-led but adult managed, the adult creates the play environment but the children decide how it is to be used.

Normal nights at KidZone involve some free time at the start of the session where they get tuck, can play board games or the Wii, watch cartoons, colour in or just chat and chill. This works well for the most part. Then they split into 2 groups - games or craft. "Or" being the operative word here. Because we have a limited amount of leaders and a rabbit warren of corridors the children chose and activity and that is what they do for the evening, no wandering around in between, for their own safety more than anything but also so that they are doing something productive. This works and the children enjoy it but I wanted to bring in these Free Play nights to give them a different experience and a bit more choice.

I put more leaders than normal on the rota so that we could use more rooms in the church and children could be properly supervised. Here's a rundown of the different activities on offer:

Physical Play
The hall was filled with large empty cardboard boxes (courtesy of the Christian Aid book sale in half term!), balls, uni hoc sticks, skipping ropes, space spots, hoops, beanbags, cones, mini netball hoop and blankets. These were laid out in a way that didn't suggest they had to be used for any particular game - children could chose what they wanted to do.

Obstacle course
Above you can see that a couple of the girls created an obstacle course with the hoops and space spots, having to skip through them using the ropes. Not pictured is another group of children who engaged the leaders in a game of netball. I emphasised to the leaders that they must be led by the children and it is interesting to note a mix of those happy to do their own thing, and those wanting to play a structured game.

Messy Play
This was the room I was in charge of! I set up tables with painting, water beads, cloud dough, and "gloop"... and of course a basin and towels to wash their hands. I was pleasantly surprised at how much they engaged with this. The water beads, gloop and cloud dough were all ideas I had got from Pinterest and parent bloggers and had been used with pre-schoolers. But even my top end primary kids enjoyed these tactile activities.

Getting the hands gloopy!

Cloud dough - 4 cups plain flour to half a cup of baby oil - reminded the children of baby powder. 
Cloud dough is soft and silky but can be moulded into solid shapes.

Water beads - a great tip from The Boy and Me - start off minuscule and gradually get bigger in the water

Still not at their full size!
 There were some great comments as they were playing:
"It feels like rotten milk" (gloop)  
"It's all hard at the bottom but water on top" (gloop) 
"You can't pick it up!" (gloop) 
"I'm going to make it freeze" (cloud dough) 
"It feels soft in my hands. Is that why you call it a cloud?" (cloud dough) 
"I found the biggest blue one. Did it go in first?" (water beads) 
"They feel like berries!" (water beads)

One of the children, who attends Sunday morning worship with her family, asked me to keep the beads in the water so she could see how big they get and show her younger brother and sister.

Creative Play and Junk Modelling
A great way to get rid of (clean!) recycling ;-) This is the "making" room - 2 tables piled high with cardboard boxes, plastic tubs, LOTS of masking tape, card, paper and various collage materials like tissue paper, pasta, ribbon, sequins, feathers etc. I have a couple of kids who would happily spend their entire lives creating beautiful things from junk and adding sparkly glitter and sequins to anything., so they were in their element here. Rather than a specific craft, they were able to make whatever they wanted and proved themselves to be creative and imaginative.

Making a kite
Chill Out Zone
This was a place where they could just sit and chat, play quiet board games, watch cartoons and grab a drink if they wanted. Often the kids came and went from this room, but one little boy stayed the whole evening watching cartoons. I wanted to encourage him to go and try some other activities, but held back. If after a busy week this was what he wanted to do, then I wasn't going to stop him!

Board games - can you spot the retro Mr Pop? One of mine from the 80s! 

Enjoying Looney Tunes!

So that was our Free Play night, and it went down a treat. They just loved it - "Can we do this every week?!" Well, considering I was on my hands and knees for 20 minutes scrubbing cornflour gloop off the carpet afterwards....perhaps not ;-) But we will definitely do it once a term I think. It's well worth the extra effort.

Do you have any ideas you can share for my next Free Play session?!

I've linked this post up to Edspire's Messy Play blog hop, in memory of the beautiful Matilda Mae x

post signaturePlease note that I have had to change my comment settings to registered users only to stop incessant spam. This is only relevant to those commenting on mobiles or tablets - computer users can still comment on Disqus as normal.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments make me happy! I'll try my best to reply to you all :) xx