Blue tarp

20 February 2011 · 9 comments

in Early Years Outdoors, Outdoor Play, Play Resources

I’m wondering if it is possible to buy blue tarp in most countries world-wide. This universal plastic weave sheet must be a ubiquitous necessity in all pre-schools that value outdoor play. One key reason for being outside is that it’s possible to play on a big – and even better – scale. Here’s just a small set of ideas to get you dreaming and scheming…

It’s a place to gather and sit. These children are examining a flint.

It’s a place for messy play. This sand was on a street near a market.

It makes an ideal focal point. Here’s a transient art activity.

It can be made into so many different shelters and dens. Here’s a “school”…

With a big tarp, part of it can be a windproof wall too…

It can be a place to crawl under…

Make it cosy in winter with lots of mats, blankets and scarves…

Hide away in some bushes. Here the tarp is the flooring and a small parachute makes up the roof…

Let children put up the tarp as much as possible…

Use velcro straps which are easy to use with little hands or in windy weather. I love the set from Muddy Faces which are especially strong and noisy when pulled apart…

If you have a blue tarp, how do you use yours?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Lily Horseman February 20, 2011 at 12:27

Juliet, Great topic for a post.

I can really recommend a you tube search for blue tarp surfing. It is reminiscent of the games our kids play spontaneously running in and out of the tarps but so much more!



Shar February 20, 2011 at 14:01

An inspiring post! We don’t have a blue tarp but I am going to get one now. Thanks for your post.


Teacher Tom February 20, 2011 at 15:30

We have a phenomenon here called “blue tarp campers.” This is when dad (usually dad) insists that the family is going camping no matter what the weather is doing, and it rains A LOT here. The entire campsite gets covered in blue tarps and you hunker under them for a weekend. Good times!

Seriously, though, it has never occurred to me to turn the tarps over to the kids. I’ll have to try that!


Plants seeds of knowledge...for our future! February 20, 2011 at 19:03

Tom: Amazing we have spent many a camptrip doing the same thing! Good thing we LOVE to camp!

I would love to use a blue tarp unfortunately I do not know how we would keep it down. Our school is on a field in the middle of nowhere with no trees or buildings to offer wind protection. Winds roaring at 45-50 miles per hour daily are a headache to all of us. Especially since it blows dirt and we are sandblasted. Any tips for how to use a tarp under these conditions. I am sure my kinders would LOVE to use them!


Pam February 20, 2011 at 23:15

I LOVE these ideas! Currently, we have a blue tarp covering our sand pit when it’s not in use…but now that I have some other ideas, it may have to come off the sand pit and be used in other areas! (I’ve never thought of it as something to actually USE! I have always just used it to cover things! 🙂


Miss Elizabeth February 20, 2011 at 23:18

I am planning to put large amounts of sand indoors on a well, green tarp, (but the same as your blue tarp in every way except color), it is really cold here in upstate ny, so on many days we are forbidden to go outside by safety regulations (anything below 20 degrees F). In any case I am bringing a little outdoors and summer inside-real beach sand on a tarp with sea shells, buckets and shovels!
Also, my sisters and I when we were younger would make tents out of one of our blue tarps and sleep outside on the cool grass on hot summer nights it is a great idea to let the kids at school use one outside as well, I think I will try it. I especially love the “cozy” tarp for winter idea! thanks!


Sherry and Donna February 21, 2011 at 07:21

We had several tarps at kinder which we often put on the ground for the children BUT we never thought to use them in other ways! … Crikey, how did miss such wonderful opportunities for all those years?!
Donna 🙂 🙂


Juliet Robertson February 21, 2011 at 18:15

Blue tarp surfing is definitely a unique opportunity with a big tarp. Some children just like being wrapped up in a tarp and then being “opened” by other children.

Blue tarp is a wonderful open-ended resource. Do get one! I’m hoping to blog about children using a big blue tarp on a windy day. On twitter I’ve set up a blue tarp hash tag to collate other ideas. I have a feeling others will follow, e.g. for masking tape! LOL!

Jenea – blue tarp is not good in wind. You need to find a nook which is sheltered to make a den. On an open site it will be ripped and shredded within one session. Alternatively, go with the flow – quite literally and use it for big flying sessions a bit like a giant sized kite for a group of children (see forthcoming blog post). Another alternative is to cut some holes in the tarp to let the wind blow through and create a different experience.

Another popular activity over here is to treat a tarp a bit like a parachute for games and having an outdoor snack under – the mushroom parachute approach where it’s wedged down by sitting on it with the heads of everyone keeping the roof up – this works in wind.


Kristin October 24, 2011 at 04:11

I am embarrassed to say that we have only used our multitude of tarps for covering our outdoor tables at night. We will be using them much differently, now! In fact, I just saw some 5’x7′ lightweight blue tarps at the 99cent store the other day. I’ll be picking some more up soon now that I’ve been given some new inspiration. I love the velcro strap idea, too. Thanks!


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