Scrapstore PlayPods and Free Play Systems

4 December 2011 · 8 comments

in Play Resources

At the 2011 International Play Association Conference Wales, there were many references to Scrapstore PlayPods. The video below tells you more…

Having spotted the above video a couple of years ago, I’ve been a strong advocate of this approach. The executive summary is a useful handout.  In the summer, not only did I get to hear the perspective of the organisation about its success, I also had the privilege of seeing one in action at Ledbury Primary School.

When a school signs up for a Scrapstore Playpod, it is more than a shed full of stuff… although this is what one looks like…

One of my favourite aspects of the playpod is that the resources just get heaped back inside. Very little sorting happens, if any. So it’s not like an ordinary outdoor shed 🙂

Another clever move is that the loose parts are all large. So the tidy up process is quick. There’s no hunting for 100 shells scattered across the playground. Or time wasted as 20 skipping ropes get untangled.

The Scrapstore Playpod team come and top up the resources on a regular basis. The children can write down requests for specific items.

The Scrapstore Playpod project is much more than simply dumping a shed load of stuff in a playground. There is extensive staff training for lunchtime supervisors about facilitating free play.

Nets are much-loved and used for all sorts of purposes including making dens and hammocks…

The wooden oars are so popular that the children have ordered some more…

There’s a lot of clean scrap that businesses no longer need, but children enjoy playing with…

And of course, every school needs guttering for play!

I liked the availability of accessories such as bags, hats and belts. I’m also a big fan of wheeled suitcases as children love pulling them around and filling them up.

Also, a good tip is to use old adult clothing as dressing up rather than specially bought outfits. A child in a skeleton suit is almost always going to be a skeleton. But an old blazer fits most jobs…

I liked the use of broken parts too such as hoops…

And parts of hoses…

In one school where I was head teacher, we had a big shed and unwanted stuff was used by children in their play. I remember the children loved playing “school” at break times with the blackboard, tables and chairs being set up. Below, the set up is a tardis. Keyboards are another scrap essential!

Around the world, the benefits of free play using loose parts is being recognised with a variety of schemes and approaches now up and running…

From the USA come Imagination Playgrounds. These are really interesting in that its parts can be housed in mobile units and driven from playground to playground. The materials work particularly well in combination with water, sand or mud. Thanks to Kaboom! for their work on promoting this system…

From Victoria, Australia comes the Play for Life Project which is similar to the Scrapstore Playpod.

And in Scotland there’s the Play on Wheels (P.O.W.) Project. This is a mobile playbus that has lots of open-ended loose parts for visiting children to use. It’s been very successful in Dundee and now there’s a second bus for a Fife-based early years project.

If you know of any other play projects near you that pride themselves on encouraging free play with loose parts, then please let me know. I plan to blog more about this in the near future but I’m keen to gather a few useful links in this blog post.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Juliet Robertson December 4, 2011 at 21:22

Thanks to Debi who left a comment on the Creative STAR Facebook page, I’ve been told about the House of Objects in North Tyneside. http://www.northtyneside.gov.uk/browse.shtml?p_subjectCategory=812 – Check out the video

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Kristin December 5, 2011 at 05:02

Amazing! I think I will mention this to my boys’ elementary school :-). I do love the idea that it is a random bunch of items that the children can sift through.

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Sherry and Donna December 5, 2011 at 12:30

I’ve become so excited by these Play Pods since you first introduced me and Sherry to them earlier this year Juliet and after reading the independent evaluation Marc Armitage wrote on the pods I have been completely hooked on them. I’m also really excited to be getting involved with the Australian pods over at Play for life and I have you to thank for it for first sparking my interest … so Thank you Juliet!
Donna 🙂 🙂

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Juliet Robertson December 5, 2011 at 16:01

Last week I took a group of students and teachers to see a similar project near where I live – and the group was amazed at the children’s creativity and imagination.

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rethinkingchildhood.com December 6, 2011 at 09:46

Don’t forget Snug, the kit made by the brother-and-sister play space designers Hattie and Tim Coppard, aka Snug and Outdoor. I’ve seen this in action in an unsupervised context (Gillett Square in Hackney, East London) and it was terrific to see the children getting to grips with it.

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Juliet Robertson December 6, 2011 at 21:20

Ooh thanks for that link, Tim – I’d forgotten about their system.

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Alie January 17, 2014 at 09:12

can you give me a guide price range of how much these play pods cost?

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Juliet Robertson January 20, 2014 at 08:07

Dear Ali

Thanks for your enquiry. I believe the Scrapstore Playpod system costs £15 000 because it includes play worker qualifications for lunch time staff and the cost of the play pod container too. Many schools have had the cost subsidised by their local councils.

Best wishes
Juliet

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