OPAL – Outdoor Play and Learning
Here at The Brent Primary School, we are committed to ensuring quality play opportunities are available to all our children. We believe that play is essential for physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual development of each child. Most of our best childhood memories are from playing outdoors, climbing trees and exploring the wide world around us.
We have recently started a programme to improve opportunities for physical activity, socialisation, co-operation, coordination, resilience, creativity, imagination and enjoyment through improved play.
OPAL gives us the opportunity to give those memories to your children.
OPAL believes that play teaches children all of the things that need to be learnt but cannot be taught. There are clearly lots of benefits to children from having lots of great play, and the good news is that there are also many benefits for schools too.
What is OPAL?
Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) Primary Programme is an award-winning mentor-supported school improvement programme, addressing all the areas schools must plan for if they want to strategically and sustainably improve the quality of their play opportunities.
OPAL is the only programme of its kind that has been independently proven to sustainably improve the quality of play in British primary schools.
It's success comes from a series of interrelated actions undertaken with the specialist support from an OPAL mentor. This embeds play into school’s policies and practices and establishes clear guiding principles and strategies for initiating changes at playtimes. The results can be transformational in even the more challenging school environments.
What does this mean for us
- Happier children
- Children coming into class ready to learn
- A fully inclusive playtime offer
- It allows children an opportunity to be creative and make decisions
- Children develop independence and resilience skills
- Increased social skills
- …. and most importantly fun!
Parent Information Letter
The benefits of play
Children learn through their play.
Don’t underestimate the value of play. Children learn and develop:
- cognitive skills – like math and problem solving in a pretend grocery store
- physical abilities – like balancing blocks and running on the playground
- new vocabulary – like the words they need to play with toy dinosaurs
- social skills – like playing together in a pretend hospital
- literacy skills – like creating a menu for a pretend tea shop
Play is healthy.
Play helps children grow strong and healthy. It also counteracts obesity issues facing many children today.
Play reduces stress.
Play helps your children grow emotionally. It is joyful and provides an outlet for anxiety and stress.
Play is more than meets the eye.
Play is simple and complex. There are many types of play:
Physical play -
can include dancing or ball games. This will help your child build their muscles, bones and physical skills.
Social play - by playing with others, children learn how to take turns, cooperate and share. This also helps them to develop their language skills.
Constructive play - allows children to experiment with drawing, music and building things. This helps them to develop their movement skills and become less clumsy. Constructive play also helps children to understand distance and size. An example of this could be if objects are small or far away.
Fantasy play - using their imagination during play is good for your child’s communication skills. It is good for them to create their own games.
Games with rules - teaches children about fairness. Board games are a good way of teaching children about rules, as well as being a fun family activity.
Make time for play.
As parents, you are the biggest supporters of your children’s learning. You can make sure they have as much time to play as possible during the day to promote cognitive, language, physical, social, and emotional development.
Play and learning go hand-in-hand.
They are not separate activities. They are intertwined. Think about them as a science lecture with a lab. Play is the child’s lab.
How can you help?
Play is not messing about. It is the process evolution has come up with to enable children to learn all of the things that cannot be taught, while also feeling like it is fun. There are certain things children must have in order to be able to play. These include:
- Having clothes that you can play in
- Having things to play with
- Having a certain amount of freedom
As our school improves play opportunities for the children, we will be asking for donations of resources and making changes about how the children use the school grounds, hopefully making use of more of the grounds, for more of the year. The children may get a bit messier, be exposed to more challenges and have greater freedoms to play where, with whom and how they like. The experiences the school is fostering are essential for children’s physical and mental well-being and healthy and in line with all current good practice advice on health safety, well-being and development.
Watch this space . . .