At first I was petrified but then I stood up and jumped

School Visits for Better Mental Health

IPA have enjoyed an excellent autumn/winter project at our adventure playgrounds working with school children who have been affected by the pandemic to help them overcome some of their difficulties. We are grateful to Islington Council who gave us a grant to complete this work from their Better Mental Health programme.

We know that many children suffered during 2020 and 2021. They have been disconnected, isolated and surrounded by fear, illness and loneliness. This has not been good for their well-being or their mental health. Some children are finding it hard to concentrate at school and hard to socialise.

With this in mind we reached out to local schools to invite them to join us in school time to give some of these children a space where they could express themselves through play, nature and art. We partnered up with Robert Blair, St Luke’s, Thornhill and St Andrews Primary Schools. Children chosen by the schools attended sessions in the afternoons at Lumpy Hill, Crumbles Castle and Toffee Park Adventure Playgrounds.

Groups of up to 10 children walked to our sites with a School Teaching Assistant and a Playworker from our team. At the playgrounds children made things from clay, planted bulbs, drew pictures and chose the way they wanted to use their time. All the activities took place outside come rain or shine.

One child, Stevie, wrote

‘My favourite thing on Lumpy Hill Playground is the giant swing. At first I was petrified but then I stood up and jumped’

This ability to take a risk with the swing led to a moment of happiness and achievement, this risk was then followed up by the academic risk of using a word like petrified in his writing. He didn’t spell it correctly but he took the risk to express himself. He knew that he was capable of overcoming fears and taking a leap because he had dared to jump before and because jumping had made him happy.

His short piece of writing, which came with a wonderful drawing, encapsulates the power of play. Children find out what they are capable of whilst doing the things they choose to do. The sense of self, created in moments of play, translates into all areas of children’s lives and creates resilience and the courage to take further risks. Those risks may include introducing yourself to a new friend, using a word you’ve never spoken, telling an adult about a difficult situation, trying new food, balancing on a beam. There is nothing passive about this learning, it comes from doing.

Arabella Yapp, SENCO at Robert Blair told us:

 ‘The group really enjoyed their opportunity to play at the adventure playground. They enjoyed making things and playing on the large equipment. It worked well having a mixed age range group. Some of the children who participated were previously very shy and isolated but this activity helped them come out of their shell and start to make friends as a result of the small group experience they enjoyed.’

IPA are always happy to create partnerships with school so that Islington’s children can benefit from outdoor play and learning by doing.

Lucy Benson – Head of Adventure Play