PLAYFUL PLAYTIMES PROJECT
Community Interest Company
“An innovative, holistic and sustainable term long schools project that supports children’s play needs at playtimes, long into the future”
What is it?
The Playful Playtimes Project was designed and developed by Playful Futures' Simon Bazley. It is a term long programme of awareness raising and practical action that supports primary schools to create higher quality play experiences for children at playtimes. The project has been delivered in over 30 schools in Wales. Create Play was responsible for delivering the Powys pilot scheme. A Welsh Government funded project delivered as part of the All
Wales Play Opportunity Grant 2018/19.
During the project we provide a school with a diverse range of exciting materials, known to us as Loose Part. These are low cost/no cost items that kids love to play with. They have no partiular intended use and create an endless world of imagination and possibilities for children. These include materials such as cardboard tubes, tyres, lengths of material, netting, ropes, crates and barrels. The natural curiosity and imagination of children combined with the endless possibilities of these items creates an open-ended environment of exploration and experiences.
The project takes a holistic approach to working with the whole the school community, delivering a complete awarness and training process to parents, govonors, teachers and mid-day supervisors in order to raise the profile of play and improve the quality of playtimes for children.
“The play is more creative, the lunch supervisors seem really happy and there are fewer incidents... A really great project!” – M.Strong, Head Teacher, Knighton School
What does it do?
Some benefits of adopting a Playwork approach at playtimes:
A reduction in violent behaviour in the school playground
The provision of positive social experiences for children
Increased attention and activity in the classroom
Increased integration of different age groups
A reduction in bullying
Increases physical activity and reduces inactivity
Less stress for mid day supervisors
Happy children and staff
“The children in my class all feel that playtime is better... They have more to do and there is less falling out! They play different types of games and enjoy the role play and generally have more fun. Even my football boys said they did different things and enjoyed it” – E.Evan’s, Teacher, Rhayader
Summary of key findings from the 2018/19 pilot project in Powys delivered across 5 schools:
• Before the Playful Playtimes project 57% of children cumulatively thought that their play experiences were either OK, not good or rubbish. This had been reduced to just 7% by the end of the intervention.
• At the end of the project 93% of children reported that their play experiences were now either good or great compared to 42% prior to the intervention.
• At the end of the project 78% of children thought that their play experiences were now great, and couldn’t be made much better compared to only 24% at the start of the project.
• In terms of the Play Champions perceptions of whether playtimes are fun, there was an improvement from 61% at the beginning to 91% at the end. Similarly, they also reported that the project increased the availability of things to do during playtimes from 35% at the beginning to 88% at the end which marked a considerable improvement.
• In terms of the amount of time available at playtimes the Play Champions reported that by end of the project 53% of them felt they had enough playtime compared to only 18% at the beginning. This has been without increasing the amount of time available for playing in any school. This indicates that improving the quality of the children’s play experiences has a dramatic impact on perceptions of the quantity of time available for playing.
• The Play Champions also reported a greater tolerance of their play behaviours from the adults at school by the end of the project. This was very probably due to the new Playwork approach adopted by the staff as a result of the awareness raising and training delivered to them. Prior to the intervention a significant proportion of the Play Champions reported that they tended to think they were getting told off when they played because the adults didn’t understand what they were doing, 74%. But this decreased to 41% by the end of the project, tending more towards ‘adults understanding their play and rarely telling them off’.
This was also reinforced by them thinking that adults supported their play far more, from 50% to 71%. From discussions with the children they felt that things had improved considerably and felt more supported and understood by most of the adults at playtimes. Similarly, in discussions with staff supporting playtimes there was a perception that the children’s play was better understood and playful behaviours better tolerated and allowed to run their natural course without usual interventions
• In terms of improvements to the quality of the playspace, the overall play value of the environment available to the children to play in at playtimes increased from 20% to a very high result of 95% at the end of the project.
• Some of the other more notable increases identified by the space audit were the amount of challenge afforded to the children that rose from 20% to 80%. The amount of possibility of change and modification to the environment afforded to the children doubled from 40% to 80%.
• Every single one of the ten areas of the Integral Play Framework saw an improvement across the life of the project, this was reflected within the individual schools. The one area that showed the lowest score at the end was for ‘elemental’ play, or opportunities to play with fire, air, water and earth. This is typical of most school play space assessments given their nature and the constraints of the settings. It should be noted that there was still a considerable increase from 25% to 45%.
The National Children’s Bureau produced a briefing paper on ‘The benefits of school playtime’. In it they gathered some of the academic research on the topic together. Here are some of their findings:
The free time available within school during break times and lunch times is clearly being underutilized in the context of promoting physical activity (Waring and others 2007). Several studies (for example Burdette and Whittaker 2005; Verstraete 2006) call for schools to facilitate more physical activity at playtimes. ‘Free play‘ can involve children in
high levels of physical activity (Mackett 2008) and children are more physically active when playground rules, policies and supervision allow for non-competitive, open-ended play (Bell and Dyment 2006). Playtimes therefore offer children an important opportunity to increase their daily physical activity through unstructured physical activity during playtimes (WHO 2007).
Playtime also offers children opportunities to deal with stress. Children greatly value the ability to do what they want at playtime (Blatchford and Baines 2006) and those children who are able to play in their own way may experience a greater ―sense of self, which has been linked to an increased ability to deal with stress (Creswell and others 2005). Children who make their own decisions, use their own initiative and feel good about themselves are more likely to develop positive self-esteem (MHF 1999).
Several studies positively associate what children do at playtime with learning in the classroom. For example, a study by Hill and others (2010) confirmed that physical exercise benefits cognitive performance within the classroom and Grugeon (2005) describes how children‘s play narratives in the playground can contribute to children‘s literacy skills. A lack of playtime has been found to have a negative impact on children‘s performance in the classroom. Pellegrini found that the longer children worked on standardised tasks without having a break time, the less attentive to the task they became (Pellegrini and Davis 1993; Pellegrini and others 1995).to
“This is the greatest thing ever!” – Child S, Llanidloes School
How is it delivered?
We take a responsive flexible approach to suit the need of each school, but essentially the main steps of the project are as follows:
1. A class of Play Champions conducts a comprehensive investigation over five weekly in-class sessions into what their school is currently like for play at playtimes.
2. We build a storage shed and fill it with play resources (loose parts) that support richer play experiences.
3. We train the staff to be prepared for the changes and to adopt a Playwork approach that ultimately extends and enhances children’s play experiences at playtimes.
4. We support the school staff to implement the changes at playtimes over four lunchtime sessions.
5. The Play Champions re-evaluate what their play opportunities are now like at playtimes to measure the impact.
6. We run a Playful Futures session for parents to find out more.
7. The school continues to run more playful playtimes long into the future!
“The project has been a huge success in our school. The level of play and imagination has improved 10 fold... I fully recommend that every school should have a shed. It has been wonderful to see pupils of all ages engaging together.” – L.Ashton, Deputy Headteacher, Llanidloes School