Elonera OOSH runs each school day from 3 to 5.30pm. We have a mix of children from Stages 1, 2 and 3.
OOSH is a welcoming and friendly community where children can relax after the school day or play with their friends. A variety of activities are available. When indoors, children can read books, do creative writing, use play dough, do origami, colour in, do art or craft activities, play board games, play with construction materials or just rest. When outdoors they have access to the playground and some natural areas: the garden, trees, sandpit, rock and pebble area and in warm weather they can play with water. They also have sandpit toys, toy trucks, cardboard, skipping ropes, balls and parachutes. Activities that are also popular are soccer, handball, cricket, tip, and hide and go seek.
Around 4pm children have afternoon tea which consists of fruit and a snack. The children help with the preparation of the fruit each day.
While we promote attitudes and behaviour of mutual respect, we emphasise free and self-directed play, including possibilities for open-ended play with 'loose materials' such as balls, cardboard, the 'hill', ropes, parachutes, natural objects, water etc. These can all be used for a variety of purposes and stimulate imaginative and inventive thinking. Cardboard never loses its popularity, being used for cubby making, skiing down the hill and other activities. Recently a child used skipping ropes to tie a parachute on the top of the fort as a hammock. For the whole of the afternoon he was visited by children who took turns to sit inside it, sometimes as many as four at once. A large soft fall area is available for active games involving balls, chasing, or imaginary dramatic or action games. A popular game at the moment is 'Capture the Flag' in which two teams attempt to capture an object in each other's territory. Organised by a few of the older children, it is played with great energy and enthusiasm by children of all ages. If there is a windfall of branches in the park we collect those and make cubbies. We have a couple of benches with chairs and some garden spaces where small groups may play or chat. We are always impressed by how well the children treat each other and organise themselves, needing minimal help to remind them of appropriate behaviour or to solve problems.
Access to nature is promoted as we can see that this helps the children to feel integrated, happy and settled in themselves. They have an innate desire to interact with the natural world physically, emotionally and intellectually, displaying great curiosity about the life around them. They play with bugs, watch lizards and point out the nesting corellas or quietly resting tawny frogmouths in the trees. They understand not to injure the creatures and that everything has its place. ‘Hand washes’ have been made using lavender and other herbs in the garden. Garden rocks are organised into a variety of imaginative games. The children love mixing water with earth and making ‘utensils’, ‘food’ or other shapes and we have provided them with river stones (from Alena’s place) to grind and make ‘paint’ which decorates skin and rocks.
It is evident to us that while the children are having fun they are also working intently on a variety of developmental skills. Research has been done on the importance of play in promoting healthy child development. Kenneth R Ginsburg in his article: The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds (Pediatrics: the official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. 2007), stated that “play (or some available free time in the case of older children and adolescents) is essential to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth”. He added the following points:
- “It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practising adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers.
- As they master their world, play helps children develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges.
- Undirected play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills.
- When play is allowed to be child driven, children practise decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover their own areas of interest, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue.
- In contrast to passive entertainment, play builds active, healthy bodies. In fact, it has been suggested that encouraging unstructured play may be an exceptional way to increase physical activity levels in children, which is one important strategy in the resolution of the obesity epidemic.
- Perhaps above all, play is a simple joy that is a cherished part of childhood.”