‘Games can sort out problems, the kind of problems found in interpersonal relationships. They can help social inadequacy by developing cooperation within groups, develop sensitivity to the problems of others through games needing trust, and provide inter-dependency as well as an independence of personal identity.’
(Brandes & Howard 1995)
Over the years of working in schools as both a teacher and education consultant, I have heard a common cry from both teachers and lunchtime supervisors “help what can we do about wet play?” It seems that every educator across the country dreads the sound of rain pouring down outside!
You see we know there isn’t enough space and that often there is little for children to do which in turn leads to bored and disruptive behaviour. Teachers also dread it because they know that when children have been cooped up indoors all day with little chance to burn off any energy, afternoon lessons often don’t go as well, due to wilder and less attentive children!
Playtime is the topic that most frequently raises it head when we get into discussions about managing behaviour and this time in the day can be made or broken according to the playtime programme in place.
In my book 101 Playtime Games (2008) I laid out the fundamental ideas for running successful playtimes and in my book 101 Wet Playtime Games and Activities (2009) I built on those ideas whilst specifically looking at Wet Playtimes and lunchtimes.
In this short article I include some simple steps that schools, organisations and parents can take to create a happy, calm, fun, stimulating and socially enjoyable wet playtime; however there is so much I could share with you and not enough space, so please refer to my book for further, more in depth information.
Make Playtime a Whole School Issue
Firstly let’s remember that Playtime is a whole school issue and one that everyone needs to be involved in, not just the lunchtime supervisors.
Initially when looking at your playtimes and wet play days consult with everyone in the school. Get everyone together, lunchtime supervisors, children, teachers, teaching assistants, parents, governors etc and do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis or PMI (positive, minus, interesting) (see 101 Wet Playtime Games and Activities).
The SWOT is often used in business and leadership and is intended to improve strengths, remove weaknesses, grasp opportunities and reduce threats. The PMI is a graphic organiser and frequently used in the Thinking Curriculum and inquiry learning. PMI charts were formalized by Edward de Bono in 1992.
So firstly list out all the strengths/positives – everything that works well on wet play days. Lunchtime supervisors have a wealth of experience and insight into this time in the school day; many have worked as supervisors for ten years or more. They will have seen games come and go and are good sources of information and inspiration.
- Video time
- Whole classroom activities, like the disco
- Wet Play leaders
Celebrate these strengths, they may also be indicators that help inform future wet play planning.
Then make a list of all the weaknesses / problems /minus’s that occur on wet play days, this list is usually longer!
- Lack of space
- Lack of equipment or activities for children to do
- Children not allowed to use classroom equipment
- Wet play boxes not up to date
- Children often floating around the school and not in their classroom
- Money available next term from PTA for wet play resources
- Fete in the summer months, possibility to look for resources for wet play boxes
- Children loitering in the toilets
- Lack of staffing in some classrooms
Once you have composed these lists, think of solutions and remove or reduce the weaknesses/minus’s and threats. Some solutions will be easy to solve others may need time, funding, resources etc. Capitalize and improve on your strengths and grasp any opportunities!
Consult with the children
Start by talking with them about activities that they enjoy doing or would like to do at wet playtime. You may find that they have numerous suggestions. If you adopt the PMI strategy, they will also be able to tell you what currently works and what doesn’t. Alternatively some schools organise circle times and others do questionnaires, using web survey’s such as survey monkey or survey gizmo (see resources section for website) to get their input.
Children need things to play with at wet playtime and it is important that adequate resources are provided, so make sure that a budget is set each year to provide for establishing and then updating wet play activities. Many local authorities will supply funding for playtimes and there is money available in the ‘Primary Sport Premium,’ for resources and Lunchtime Supervisor training, so do remember to allocate some of the budget to wet play and training.
Wet Play Class Rules – Do’s and Don’ts
School staff can get upset when children get out all the precious toys and equipment during wet play.
It is wise to have specific activities just for wet play and create a wet play box or cupboard.
I suggest teachers write up the things children can and can’t do at wet play and the equipment they can use. Then everyone is happy. This can be laminated and stuck onto the wet play box or cupboard.
Wet Play Boxes or Cupboards
This is filled with games, activities, wordsearches, dot to dots, colourings in etc. 101 Wet Playtimes Games and Activities in packed with photocopiable resources in the book and on it’s CD Rom.
Companies such as Edventure supply Infant and Junior Wet Playtime pack to schools.
I would suggest that each box contains a selection of age appropriate activities, which may include some of the following:
- Pack of cards
- 2-3 music and story CD’s
- A selection of DVD’s
- A selection of board games, snakes and ladders, ludo, draughts, chess, dominoes etc
- Plasticine or play dough
- Construction kits – lego etc
- Crayons, pencils, paper
- Dressing up clothes
- Imaginative play (small worlds)
- Books and Comics
- Boxes/recycled materials for creative activities/box modeling etc
- Imaginative play (small worlds)
Remember that even though it is wet, this is children’s playtime and an important time in their day to let off steam, connect with their friends and have some fun. It is also the time in the day where social, emotional and behavioural skills are learnt.
A fun game for a wet play day is Marshmallow Towers, which can be found in 101 Wet Playtime Games and Activities by Therese Hoyle.
For further information on creating happy and constructive wet playtimes, see Therese’s book 101 Wet Playtime Games and Activities.
‘Play is regarded as essential to lifelong learning, creativity and wellbeing.’ Wood (2007)