Saturday, 1 December 2012

Outdoor play 2 - a Swedish look

sand and waterplay - image found online

So I have taken a look at some of what has been written about outdoor play and preschool playgrounds here in Sweden. The links are of course in Swedish - some have photographs - and if your interest is in the outdoor playing environment then maybe it is worth translating them.

The focus on having natural elements and variation is found in all of the links - the need for the children to feel safe in order to be able to explore fully is also expressed. In "Outdoor Pedagogy and the Role of Teachers in Children's Play" (2009) it is discussed how children have more freedom outside than inside - as there is the need to tidy up after themselves indoors, which is not necessary in nature, noise pollution is not the same outdoors and there is more freedom for gross motor skills outside. In this link the focus of outdoor play is in the forest/nature rather that the preschool yard - as I find that the same tidy up constraints are still in place in preschool yards as there is indoors - in fact I would say that in cities where the preschool shares its yard with the people who live in the apartment complex have to tidy up outside almost more than inside as otherwise toys can be stolen, destroyed or neighbours complain that it is messy. Indoors projects can be saved - a block construction can be continued the next day (simply write a sign for the cleaner not to bother with the room - or have very low tables, raised surfaces so that cleaning can be done around constructions) - a similar construction left outdoors in a shared facility would not be guaranteed to be there the next day - to the great disappointment of the children.

The following photographs all come from one park in Stockholm - Rålambhovspark - and shows how one park can have many rooms...

experimenting with spinning - I have seen children spin Autumn leaves etc in small groups

experimenting with weight and gravity - for two

role play with bikes and trikes - from a single child to a group of children

water play

motor skills being put to the test. This climbing frame can be used as a boat theme role-play or as part of an obstacle course...

more spinning experimentation for one or more (helpers)

more motor skills - a different sort of climbing frame with more challenges

the slide is definitely different and challenges children to think how to use it...

mud kitchen
There is also a big wide slide, swings, a big basket like swing, a climbing wall, marble run, an area for the 0-2 year olds, a spooky forest in a bush area as well as a zip line. This park certainly has lots of rooms.

Of course motor skills is an area that is raised in all the university paper links - in "It's in to be outside" improved health is discussed as in the last post about outdoor environments. It also discusses the fact that the outdoor environment should have "rooms" where children can play and fulfill their need to crawl and hide and explore small areas as well as their need to run around.

In Bredäng preschool yards were inspected with the following criteria

  • at least 6,000 sq metres so that children can run freely and pick up speed
  • bushes instead of fences should be used to divide areas off
  • 50% of the yard should be in the shade, preferably trees/natural shade, and that climbing equipment etc should be placed so that it is located in the shade between 11am and 3pm
  • favourite play areas should be integrated with nature - eg rope swings in trees.
  • utilise passages (between buildings and the fence/boundary) as an interesting play area rather than fencing them off
  • the yard should be safe from traffic and criminality.
You can look at the link and see the photographs of the preschools they checked the viewed them as follows
Utmärkta gårdar/Excellent yards
Förskola F 
I huvudsak bra gårdar, som kan förbättras med vissa åtgärder/On the whole good yards, that can be improved with certain measures
Förskola A, C 
Gårdar som behöver förbättring/Yards that need improvment
Förskola B, H 
Gårdar som behöver större förbättringar/yards that need much imporvement
Förskola D, G, K, I 
Dåliga gårdar, som inte lämpar sig för verksamheten/bad yards that are not suitable
Förskola E

a designed preschool - but where is the vegetation/shade? Image found online

The link to the paper about designing yards with a Reggio feel also takes up the concept of "rooms" in the yard and goes on to describe how the outdoors should be a compliment to the indoor environment. It also points out that many preschools are not found in natural environments and that this means we as teachers need to plan and design how to bring natural elements in to the outdoor yard.

In my next look at playing outdoors I will go international again...
Utomhuspedagogikens och pedagogernas roll i barnens lek
Outdoor Pedagogy and the Role of Teachers in Children’s Play
Lärarexamen 210hp Barndoms– och ungdomsvetenskap 2009-03-13
Stina Arnberg Maria Berggren

det är inne att vara ute - it's in to be outside

preschool yards in Bredäng - here you can see how Bredäng is considering how to develop the preschool yards - trying to utilise the "dead" areas of the yards and think how they can be used in a more imaginative way

preschool yards with a Reggio Emilia feel - some photographs too.

to think about when building a preschool yard. Malmö - lots of photographs once you scroll down long enough. Malmö has produced this document as advice in the design and construction of preschool yards to improve the play value of yards.

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