The Care and Learning Alliance (CALA) is currently delivering Active Play sessions in a number of Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) settings, supported and funded by NHS Highland and Public Health Scotland. The programme outcomes focus on:
Reducing health inequalities, improving health equity and health literacy.
Supporting and empowering children, young people and families to make positive and sustainable changes to their health and wellbeing.
Child Healthy Weight Minimum Standards for Scotland - healthy weight in childhood can put children at risk of long-term health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and poor mental wellbeing. Physical activity reduces risk.
In our Wimberley Estate Childcare Centre (WECC) Active Play has been running since late August, delivered by Active Play Practitioners for one hour on a Thursday and Friday weekly. We have adapted the Active Play model from Inspiring Scotland in partnership with play charities, academics and sector specialists. The Active Play model is backed by international research studies which demonstrate the importance of ‘ outdoor physically active play in aiding a child’s mental development; boosting cognitive ability, academic achievement, imagination, creativity and social skills’ (Inspiring Scotland).
This Active Play model continues to mirror the simple methodology of the original model and focuses on:
- Supporting ELC to access and make the most of community green spaces
- Increasing opportunity for higher levels of physical activity to support children’s wellbeing and development; boosting cognitive ability, imagination, creativity and social skills.
The adapted ELC version addressing some of the adverse effects of COVID-19 on children’s health, wellbeing and overall development such as:
- ELC’s and playparks being closed for 5 months - limiting children’s engagement play opportunities that support their vital physical literacy skills.
- All under 5’s groups – ballet/mini kickers etc closed.
- Lockdown for parents – working from home/shielding/no gardens/limited access to green space etc - If physical literacy skills are impeded during development – confidence/self-esteem to engage in active physical activities may be hampered which we know through research can increase health implications.
- Some restricted movement in our ELC’s due to necessary COVID measures there is limitations on what the children are accessing e.g. individual cohorts accessing the outdoor area limits children’s choice to be outside and amount of time possible
- Staff/parents perceptions of providing COVID-19 safe play may continue to limit opportunities
About Active Play at WECC
Children’s Rights are a priority for us here at WECC and are embedded in everything we do and the Active Play Programme. Children need to play. Play is recognised as a child’s fundamental right in Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The simple format of Active Play is quite simple but powerful. The children and WECC practitioners join the Active Play Practitioners for each session our one of our local open green spaces. The children love walking over there, meeting many local residents along the way, waving, chatting and telling them all about where they are going and what they are going to be doing!
The sessions are always outside no matter what the weather. Some days it has been chucking rain and the next we are in t-shirts, but as you can see from the photographs the weather is not a problem - properly suited and booted the children are having FUN, Active and Inclusive play.
"What the children are “learning” through having fun and playing is incredible - numeracy, literacy, turn-taking, new physical literacy skills being developed and consolidated, communication and overall sense of wellbeing just by being outside in unrestricted space."
About Active Play at WECC ..cont..
WECC practitioners are already noticing the difference in independence skills in the children by getting prepared for going to the session and also how the children are supporting each other and working things out together. We have particularly noticed the confidence and excitement to participate form a couple of children who in the past have found new situations challenging – Active Play has been instrumental in helping them with confidence and self-esteem to cope better with new situations and transitions in general.
Practitioners are also noting in children’s observations increased interactions in play and better use of imagination and creativity from some children in the way they approach their play.
Practitioners are also enjoying the new ideas form the social games at Active Play and are incorporating these back at the setting – adapting and extending on them, following the children’s interest.
Practitioners are also feeling more confident to utilise the many open green spaces around us on a daily bases and in response to children’s requests. This is helping staff to find innovative solutions to ensure children’s choice, right to play and access to high energy physical play opportunities are not impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.