There is often suspicion or doubt regarding the maintenance and use of a natural playground. It’s funny, because on our old concrete playground children sometimes got dirty (and pants ripped after falling and bumps and scrapes were the order of the day). That’s why we like to share the tips we apply at our school.
For us, learning through play in a green environment is a priority over dirty pants and dusty hands. If you keep this in mind, everything else will follow automatically. Also in the maintenance, management and care of your environment are numerous learning opportunities and learning objectives!
- Work with a weekly rotation system where a different class is responsible for cleaning up the playground each time.
- Give each class responsibility for a particular area of the playground so that they manage and maintain it well.
- Practical tools such as a leaf blower (battery powered) and push broom sweeper give students cool tools to get started. Shoe brushes on each door and sturdy brushes also come in handy.
- Handy, mobile (and sturdy) storage boxes for loose play materials come in handy for playing in different areas. And to have cozy coffee breaks 🙂
- Keep shoes in the hallway or outside and have students wear slippers in the classroom. This is a small intervention with a big result.
- Invest in rain suits and boots for the youngest children.
- Make simple playground agreements with the children. Keep it clear and straightforward. Phrase those rules positively.
- Regularly sound out your colleagues whether they think the way children are playing is ok. One colleague may find climbing a tree frightening while for another they cannot climb high enough. Regular consultation on this is important.
- Delineate planting zones in a smart way so that the new plants have every chance to grow.
- Suffering from play erosion on the play mounds? Delineate Indian paths along which the children can go up, over, through the hills. This keeps the rest of the hill protected and the kids have more fun opportunities to play. We put another layer of limestone over our hills so there is a protective layer over them.
- Safety is an interesting topic. A playground should ideally be as safe as it needs to be and not as safe as it can be. An inspection by a recognized authority is certainly interesting (and often mandatory)! More info on playground safety can be found through the International School Ground Alliance: https://www.internationalschoolgrounds.org/risk
- Do you have a good tip? Feel free to pass it on!