Archive for August, 2017

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Planning for Play: it’s all about the unexpected..

During the workshops in The Gambia we found out lots of things; some of them were answers to questions that we didn’t even know we had asked!  One of the amazing things about testing out ideas is that it’s a bit like throwing everything up in the air and seeing where everything falls. The things that you pick up and put back together are often surprising and really not what you thought, but this is why it is so incredibly important and vital to do! For more information on the Planning for Play project click here

The following summarises the different things that we found out

Zoning of spaces

The main things which were of notice were the need to zone areas for different ages and different types of play. Therefore space has been allocated to each class within the playground with a more discreet space for the youngest children.

Quieter activities

Children also engaged with other activities as well as playing when they use the playground; we saw children who found quiet spaces, children who wanted to draw and write, children eating and children socialising. The plan includes spaces for each of these activities, some of which are duplicated in spaces for different ages. There will be bantabas for socialising and chatting and blackboards for drawing and writing.


Children drew animals that they are familiar with such as the animals which are pets or farmed in the village fish, chickens and cows. If we represent animals in the playground we will reflect the animals that children drew rather than the lions and elephants that may be associated with Africa.

Mobile elements

One of the key elements was the children’s enthusiasm for playing with moveable elements. I had noticed that children were moving elements around the tunnels and hills when we returned and when we provided further materials children response very positively. Teachers also requested more ‘games’ to help them to teach outside and for the children to play with.  Additionally, the teachers requested a store. In this way, elements which we had not considered as part of the playground have become a very essential part of it. At the next stage, the intention will be to work with the teachers and the mobile elements to help them to explore and discover a range of ways of playing and learning with the children. Based on our trials with the palm-woven tunnels and baskets we are planning on commissioning some shapes woven from palm which can be used to build with. Maget had concerns that the tunnel would not last and could be dangerous as spiky but when we talked to the man who could make the items he said that he could weave them to be strong and safe.

A store for keeping everything in

The teachers were very keen to create a store which would sit near to the playground to keep toys and equipment in.

A fence to protect the space

From observations in the playground on the first day of term and other occasions, it became apparent that a fence will be necessary. This had originally been included as part of the brief for ‘The School Project’ but was excluded due to lack of time and money during that project. This gave time to assess whether a fence is actually required. On investigation the fence was found to be something that is necessary to protect the children’s space. There is an issue in that the classrooms back on to the football pitch and often the ball is kicked into the playground or the roof of the classrooms. It will be necessary to consider the balance between protection of the space and allowing access to gain the footballs/

Muddy space

During initial conversations in the UK prior to leaving for The Gambia, Aga and I had discussed the possibility of incorporating a mud kitchen in the playground, but had not taken the idea any further. Through the workshops, the children showed how they enjoyed the sensory exploration using water and sand. The teachers mentioned that there is a possibility of getting clay locally to use in this area on occasion.

Musical instruments

Children adapted empty barrels, turned-upside-down plastic plant pots and whatever else they could find and drummed on them. Drumming is an integral part of village life, so ideas have been collected together to make a ‘musical house’. This will be developed very much with the workers and the village in the next phase.

The following images show how the work that we carried out with the children influenced our ideas for planning space for play!

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