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Chilthorne Domer Church School

Together we Love, we Aim High and we Celebrate!

Opal Play

OPAL - Outdoor Play and Learning

 

We are embarking on our OPAL journey with the sole aim of creating happier playtimes! 

 

The OPAL Primary Programme...

 

Children in British primary schools spend 20% or 1.4 years of their school attendance in play and yet many schools have no strategic or values-based approach to play across all ages.

 

Research shows that play contributes to children’s physical and emotional health, well-being, approach to learning and enjoyment of school. Given the importance of play in children’s lives and current concerns about children’s health and opportunity to access time and space to initiate their own play outdoors, there are considerable benefits for children, parents, school and the wider community from participating in OPAL's programme. The OPAL Primary Programme supports schools in developing a cultural shift in thinking about and supporting children’s play. Its success comes from a series of interrelated actions undertaken with the specialist support from the OPAL mentor. This embeds play into school’s policies and practices and establishes clear guiding principles and strategies for initiating changes at playtimes. The results can be transformational and - at best – spectacular and show progress even in more challenging school environments.

 

Our OPAL journey started in September 2022 with a whole school INSET and will take 18 months to two years to get up to speed and fully embed. There is a working party that will work closely with Kate from OPAL to ensure that our children have the best possible playtimes. The working party consists of representatives from across the school as follows: 

 

Nichola Chesterton - Headteacher

Rebecca Denley - Class Teacher and Governor

Peter Luscombe - Governor

Leanne Costello - Play Team Supervisor

Diane Stacey - Play Time Leader (previously known as lunch time supervisor)

Chelsea Wood - Parent

Jodie Dalmasso - Parent 

The benefits of play

 

1. Children learn through their play.

Don’t underestimate the value of play. Children learn and develop:

  • cognitive skills – like math and problem solving in a pretend grocery store
  • physical abilities – like fundamental skills, balancing and travelling on the playground
  • fitness – expending more energy and effort as they explore and engage in active play
  • new vocabulary – like the words they need to play with toy dinosaurs
  • social skills – like playing together in a pretend car wash
  • literacy skills – like creating a menu for a pretend restaurant

2. Play is healthy.

Play helps children grow strong and healthy. It also counteracts obesity issues facing many children today

 

3. Play reduces stress.

Play helps your children grow emotionally. It is joyful and provides an outlet for anxiety and stress

 

4. Play is more than meets the eye.

Play is simple and complex.  There are many types of play: symbolic, sociodramatic, functional, and games with rules-–to name just a few. Researchers study play’s many aspects:  how children learn through play, how outdoor play impacts children’s health, the effects of screen time on play, to the need for recess in the school day.

 

5. Make time for play.

As parents, you are the biggest supporters of your children’s learning. You can make sure they have as much time to play as possible during the day to promote cognitive, language, physical, social, and emotional development.

 

6. Play and learning go hand-in-hand.

They are not separate  activities. They are intertwined. Think about them as a science lecture with a lab. Play is the child’s lab.

 

7. Play outside.

Remember your own outdoor experiences of building forts, playing on the beach, sledding in the winter, or playing with other children in the neighbourhood. Make sure your children create outdoor memories too.

 

8. Trust your own playful instincts.

Remember as a child how play just came naturally? Give your children time for play and see all that they are capable of when given the opportunity.

 

9. Play is a child’s context for learning.

Children practice and reinforce their learning in multiple areas during play. It gives them a place and a time for learning that cannot be achieved through completing a worksheet. For example, when playing in the ‘mud café’, children write and draw menus, set prices, take orders, and create the ‘food’.  Play provides rich learning opportunities and leads to children’s success and self-esteem.

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