I have worked and supported out of school provision for more years than I care to remember, but still enjoy the experience of going into clubs and taking part in the play initiated by the children.
In fact, only yesterday, I was presented with a wonderful necklace created from recycled resources and it now takes pride of place on my desk. I can smile and remember the boys who spent time having fun and working together.
But to get to the point, I know how much needs to be planned and co-ordinated to create a fun environment for the children every day. Setting up an exciting environment from the store cupboard, collecting and greeting children, ensuring tea time is nutritious and healthy, having interesting and exciting resources, providing equipment for the wide age range of children to explore and play, getting outside to play, not forgetting the time we spend talking and playing with the children so we can get to know them well, liaising with parents and other professionals – the list is endless.
I have heard the mantra so many times ‘but you’re only playing with children’!
BUT IT IS SO IMPORTANT!!
I thought I would just share a few points for consideration on how we retain the balance of keeping our children safe as well as learning life skills along the way.
How do we do this?
Transporting children to and from club
I always consider this to be the most risky time of the day and one of the biggest challenges facing out of school clubs. Whether using vehicles, buses, or walking children to and from the club there are many safety aspects to consider. But, let’s not forget how it also shows our children how to be independent, support others and to understand risks and how to manage them.
As your checklist, do you regularly consider:
- What staff to child ratios you have?
- The route used – away from busy roads if possible
- Do all staff have ID badges or uniforms?
- Do staff have First aid certification and first aid kit available?
- Do staff have a good knowledge of safeguarding?
- Are there clear procedures in place and understood by staff and children?
- Do all vehicles used have up to date documentation – MOT, insurance etc?
Check out this website for further advice: https://www.rospa.com/road-safety/advice/vehicles/seatbelts-and-airbags/
- is a must every day! – Outdoors provides wonderful opportunities for children as long as the adults make sure there are a variety of resources and play areas. Always consider the balance between the benefits and the need for children to play, alongside the duty to provide a safe environment.
I can hear some staff now ‘it is quite cold out’ – SO WHAT!
Some clubs are fortunate to have wildlife areas or playground equipment to access and some of you will be based in schools and have fencing all around. Every club faces different and challenging complications. For those of you who are using public land you probably have to think carefully about boundaries, rules, strangers and dogs on a daily basis. Whatever the barriers we can always find ways to ensure children have a fun and stimulating environment outside – we just have to keep thinking:
- How can I enhance the outdoor today? Make it interesting/exciting
- Does our risk assessment identify any hazards for children in our outdoor play today?
- Where are the boundaries – do all staff and children know?
- who is the first aider ready to act in an emergency?
- Where is the portable first aid kit – that follows you around?
- What are our procedures if a child goes missing?
- How do I summon help from other staff? – Walkie-talkie?
It always amazes me how children arrive at club so hungry – probably been doing lots of listening and learning at school. Tea time or snack time is a great time to take the weight off your feet, sit, and chat with the children. So much to talk about whether it is new experiences, funny quips or worries that children may have, make tea time a relaxing time that’s calm and enjoyable.
How does your tea time measure up?
- Are staff always sitting down with the children and taking part in conversations, being good role models?
- Do you provide the opportunities for children to be independent – serve themselves, pour their own drink and spread their toast etc.?
- How much do you promote good manners?
- How do you encourage children to try new foods?
I always feel I am nagging when reminding everyone about the legal requirements – but that is what I am here for- so don’t forget to keep up to date with the Ofsted requirements for the Early Years and Childcare Registers and follow guidance from the food standards agency
How can HfL help you?
If you would like more help and support with your out of school club, HfL can help with – Out of school club factsheets for guidance on snack times, transportation and outdoor play, or you can book a consultancy visit with one of the early years team.