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Managing messy outdoor play

Discussion in 'Early Years' started by ndic1456, Jun 28, 2017.

  1. ndic1456

    ndic1456 New commenter

    In our setting we are very happy for the children to engage in muddy, messy, watery play outside and reap the benefits of this type of learning.
    However we are struggling to come up with a system for preserving uniforms, getting clean up and changed independently and getting parents on board with it (I think if we came up with a system, the parents might be more understanding)
    We do not always have free-flow from outdoors to indoors due to low numbers of staff and there are periods of the day when all the children are outside at the same time (for example the hour after lunch).
    The children at our school wear uniforms but are asked to bring in old clothes (t-shirts, shorts, leggings...) and spare underwear. We ask the children to put on wellies or go bare feet to play in the mud or water. All the spares etc are stored in the classroom.

    So the issues we are encountering are many. For the children who do remember to change, it takes time and an adult has to bring them inside. It also takes away the spontaneity of their play. For those who do not remember to change they are soaking their uniforms and being sent home in spare clothes and parents are getting a bit annoyed at constantly washing. Those children who get wet and muddy then need to get cleaned up and changed at the start of the afternoon session which we like to use as a discussion and reflection time. Since it is generally the same children they are frequently missing these group times and it also takes an adult away to assist them. Also the outdoor area leads straight into the classroom so they are trailing in mud sand and water behind them. (I am by no means a neat freak but it can be a little unsafe and some colleagues are tearing out their hair at the mess).

    Has anyone got any solutions for how they manage the clothing issues surrounding outdoor messy play. Do you restrict it to certain days? Or rotate the children? Or found a system for one member of staff to manage it at a time, including the changing? How independent are the children in managing their own clothing changes?

    I know that every setting is different, so it's hard to advise on. I really want the children to have this kind of experience but its creating some friction amongst parents. Any ideas would be most welcome.
  2. grumbleweed

    grumbleweed Lead commenter

    Consider fund raising for all in one suits if messy play is a significant part if your provision. If you have a sheltered area just outside they can put on/take off there without trailing mud through.
    You would need to spend some time getting children to learn how to put them on, but that's all part of it.
    You would have to think about washing them, do you have a nachine in your school?
  3. Kartoshka

    Kartoshka Established commenter

    Puddle suits will solve a lot of your problems. It would be ideal if you could afford a class set, but if not, it just means you would need to limit the number of children engaging in messy play - "no puddle suit, no messy play". They should be fairly easy for the children to manage independently, although obviously at the beginning of the year you'd need to have a member of staff to supervise and help as necessary.
  4. May2

    May2 Established commenter

    As well as all in one suits it would help if you had a wellie boot rack just outside your door so they take their boots off before coming in, maybe a mobile boot rack that you can wheel outside at the beginning of the session. However we trained our nursery children to take off their boots on the large doormat as they came in and carry them to the spot where they were stored under their pegs. I'm not sure what age your children are but after a few weeks most of our 3 1/2 year olds could just about manage to get them on with minimum help but it is time consuming with the younger ones and more difficult if they are wearing a bulky coat underneath in cold and snowy weather. they are much easier without coats. If you started with a dozen suits for those that want the messier play, you could assess them and see how it is working.

    Our children had to always put wellies on to go outside in autumn , winter or spring as the grass was generally wet first thing. They quickly got used to taking their shoes on and off. We had a large sand pit where 10 children could play and a box of old wellies for them to wear to go in it. They had to wear these so it didn't get too muddy, when no boots left , the sand pit was full and they had to go somewhere else. It worked fine they would change back when they came out and were not allowed in the sand in their shoes. In the summer they went bare foot and we'd find a different method of restricting numbers such as only 10 spades,
    I would advise you to make sure all staff together set consistent ground rules at the start of term and plan from where you can improve on what has happened this term. I think the outside area is often EYFS biggest nightmare and you are not alone with this one

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