Outdoor Play Area
Our ministry of education-approved, fenced-in play area offers children the opportunity to play outside safely.
Play Area Requirement Facts:
- Fence height is in accordance with the Ministry of Education license requirements
- Separate play areas for Pre Casa (toddlers) and Casa (preschool) children in accordance with Ministry of Education requirements
- Play area sized according to requirements of the Ministry of Education
- Wooden fence offers privacy and anonymity to children while playing out of view of prying eyes
- Non permanently-fixed equipment for children and teachers to have the freedom to move, reorganize as needed or preferred in the play area
- Wooden structures instead of plastic or metal. Natural, neutral colors instead of bright colors.
- A large variety of outdoor toys, ridding toys that are weather appropriate and rotated according to seasons
- Outdoor learning materials rotated according to various topics and interest of the children. These are brought outdoors on large "classroom carts" by the teachers on a daily basis or as needed
- Opportunities to use pencils, papers, chalks, chalkboards or other vertical and horizontal writing surfaces
- Large mirrors where children can observe their bodies while developing their gross motor skills
- Shade-making pergolas offer a rest area out of the sunshine
- Non permanent seating areas, moved as needed according to activities
Open-ended materials (or toys) are defined as materials/toys that don't have a defined purpose or have more than one purpose.
For example, large, plain wooden blocks of wood can become bricks of a house, pieces of a bridge or even loaves of bread that are being sold in the pretend bakery that the children have built out of empty crates and tarps.
Non open-ended (or closed-ended) materials is like a plastic dog from a television show. The child knows it's a dog, so it will not be a cow, a rooster or a cat. In their play, it will always remain a dog. If the child is familiar with the television show the dog is from, then it will be called by the same name as it is in the show. It will never be Fido or Blackie, it will need to be called by the proper name during their play. Even further, if the television dog with the given name has a specific role or characteristic on the show (most animated cartoon animals do), then then the child will restrict its play even further by only allowing television dog with the given name to only perform and like the same things as he does on television. This type of play often sees children 'reenacting' television episode scene by scene. Children get bored quickly of such toys. Play sessions are short and often result in a lot of disagreements between children as some children may be more knowledgeable about certain characters (from television) than others and will not tolerate any deviation from 'the television show'.
Anyone who has ever tried to get Spiderman to cook a meal while playing with their child or getting Doc McStuffins to be deep-sea diver while playing in the bathtub will understand this very well! These scenarios may be met with frustration or giggles from the child, but will more than likely not catch on.
Closed-ended toys still serve a purpose for the children. Unlike the latter, close-ended toys follow clear instructions. There are defined beginning, middle, and end stages, and a specific outcome is expected to happen. Close-ended play also has important benefits, helping a child learn how to follow instructions and complete tasks. Close-ended toys are also good in attention-building, problem-solving, and memory and mastery. In a Montessori classroom, children have access to a lot of these activities. They have a purpose, they practice or develop a skill and allow the children to concentrate on one skill at a time.
Outdoors, it's time to use their creativity, their imagination, to move their bodies and work on their gross motor skills. That's why we offer a lot of open-ended toys and materials in our play area.
If it's imagination and creativity we want to stimulate, open-minded materials are what children need.
- Our play area is an opportunity for the children to enjoy free-play daily
- Guided, occasional activities are added to enhance our program without interfering with daily free-play time
- Our play area offers a variety of open-ended materials for the children to use their creativity and their imagination to create their own playground instead of being restricted to a fixed, non-changing play structure.
- Every play session is different, the materials change, the children can rearrange them as they wish, not the way 'the adults' think it should look
We are just at the beginning of our journey! Having opened at our current location in September 2020, we are at the start of building and creating our play area. As with any large projects, we are actively working on coordinating orders, buildings, permissions, etc. and slowly adding, modifying and expanding our materials and play area.
We started with the most important items; the pergolas to create shaded areas for the hot summer sun. With these recently completed, we are working on getting some of the bigger pieces of our play areas while continuing to add materials and toys as the orders are slowing trickling in weekly or monthly. We are also working on adding flowers and hopefully by next summer we will have a food garden for the children to tend to.
As you probably guessed, the pandemic has brought us some restrictions on our play areas. We are anxiously awaiting the permission to add sandboxes and water play areas in our play areas. For now, sand, water or any other shared sensory activities are disallowed, even outdoors. Children are also asked to be restricted to 'hard play surfaces' during outdoor play. No grass, sandy or rubberized play area (unless they are the only option in a pre-existing play area). Since our play area is a hard surface, we decided to put off any potential changes to the surface to a later time.