Making The Playground Easier For Infants
The school playground can be such a tricky place for infants to navigate, both physically and socially. As soon as they step out of the classroom door they can get lost in a whole new world and not know where to start. I have implemented some or all of following as ways to make playground life easier for little ones throughout the year.
BUDDY SYSTEM: At the start of the year it is a nice idea to set up a buddy system with children in senior classes. Each child in 5th/6th class is paired up with a buddy in infants. For the first week they come to the infant class and collect their buddy for playtime. They show them around the yard, introduce them to other children and play with them. When the bell rings the senior student makes sure the infant is back in line ready for their teacher. I find this works really well as the senior students love the responsibility thrust upon them and the infant has a friendly face and helping hand to guide them around the yard and show them the ropes. Some of the infants don’t need to the support of the buddy system for very long and they find their feet quickly. With others it takes more time. Buddies help out with infants in loads of ways throughout the year: at assemblies; during sports day; during school trips etc. Some schools highlight buddies by getting them to wear high-vis vests. This obviously makes finding your buddy really easy.
A BUDDY BENCH: Buddy benches have become very popular. It is simply a bench in your playground with a sign on it like this one. Or maybe it is painted a special colour, or is a special designated area where children can go and sit if they have no one to play with, are sad etc. If other children see someone on the bench then they can try to help by inviting the child to come and play, talking to them etc. It is an effective way to make sure you have an inclusive playground, and again I find it works well.
STUDENT BODY MANAGEMENT: Some schools have separated playgrounds due to large numbers of students while some schools have separated break times due to a mixture of numbers and small play spaces. While it is nice to allow all the children to play together, safety does need to be a priority.
FRIENDSHIP GROUPS: Friendship groups have been really successful for helping my infants socially. Following a circle time discussing the playground and what it means to be a good friend (including everyone sharing, being kind etc.) the children will organise their play before going to the playground. During our eating time, prior to going to the playground, the children get into small friendship groups. These groups can be formed by the children themselves or, if need be, can be teacher-led. Everyone is encouraged to make sure they include everyone else.
The children discuss who is in their group, what they are going to play, what the rules are, where they will play etc. The teacher will move from group to group making sure everyone is being included and each group makes a promise to look after everyone in their group. For this, it is a good idea to let the infants access to the playground a minute or two before the other classes arrive in order to let them get orientated in their play space.
Friendship groups can be done everyday, on days where it is required or for a block of time. If groups are teacher-led, it is easy to mix up the groupings and ensure that children mix with a wide variety of children and not just their friends. This kind of planning ensures that all children are included; that all children know where they will be playing; that all children know what they will be playing; and it eliminates the feeling of getting lost in the playground. For children with special needs, it is also a great method to ensure that they are included and understand the social elements of the playground before stepping foot outside the classroom.