Children given scraps in play trials

By Tristan Donovan

| 23 October 2007

Shipping containers filled with hundreds of scrap objects have been put in three school playgrounds as part of a landmark study of children's play.

Children playing in containers. Credit: Children's Scrapstore

The "play pod" containers have been set up at three primary schools in the South West in a bid to encourage children to play in imaginative ways.

Pupils are given free access to the contents of the play pods - which include items such as tyres, foam, dressing up clothes and cardboard boxes - to help them play in different ways and see whether or not encouraging imaginative play affects behaviour and learning in the school.

"We're looking at children's ability to play creatively and set their own agenda - we hope it will have a knock-on effect onchildren's health and classroom activity," explained Kirsty Wilson, play pods manager at the Children's Scrapstore charity in Bristol.

"The pods contain a very broad mix of items, the rule we use is that the items must be safe, clean and larger than a video cassette."

The three schools will host a play pod for 12 weeks, after which the pods will be moved to another three schools for a further 12 weeks. Finally, three more different schools will host the pods for 12 weeks before the project ends.

Teachers at the nine schools taking part are trained on how to use the pods prior to their arrival. Play workers also work with the schools while they have a play pod on the premises.

The project, which has about £170,000 of funding from theBig Lottery Fund's Playful Ideasscheme, is a partnership between the Children's Scrapstore, Playwork Partnerships, and Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset councils.

Michael Follett, play development adviser at South Gloucestershire council, said the project will also examine how schools respond to children playing in new ways. He said the early reaction of the children to the pods has been interesting.

"The children were very excited when the pods first arrived, rushing around to see what was in there," he said. "There was a lot of play-fighting initially, but now it has been in place for a few days the children are starting to engage in bigger, more co-operative projects, such as building pirate ships out of tyres and cardboard boxes."

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