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Our Lady Immaculate Primary School Case Study: Play Wrapped in Care

At Future Action, we believe in the importance of play wrapped in care to transform children's mental wellbeing and nurture holistic development.

This belief is based on our experiences in post-lockdown classrooms where we saw many children trapped in blocked rage, fear, or panic/grief.

We are delighted to partner with Our Lady Immaculate Primary School as part of our 'Liverpool RISE Up' programme. The school exemplifies excellence in creating active play wrapped in care opportunities for their young people during playtimes. 

At Our Lady Immaculate Primary School, the playground is a space for holistic development and inclusive play. Meg Davies, the dedicated PE lead, offers an exclusive glimpse into the thoughtfully curated range of activities and the rationale behind their inclusion.

Insights from Meg Davies:

Why did you decide to focus on ‘Play wrapped in care’ at Our Lady Immaculate Primary School?

“Our school development plan had a particular focus on children getting the most out of play. We looked into research noting that children communicate better and live happier, healthier lifestyles when play is rich in collaboration, mutual respect, and a care-centred approach.”

What activities are included, and what are their purposes?

  • Football and Basketball: These inclusive team sports involve high levels of physical activity, including running, jumping, and quick movements. They promote collaboration, communication, and healthy competition while developing essential skills such as teamwork, coordination, and sportsmanship.

  • Jump Rope: Jumping rope is an active energiser exercise that requires agility, coordination, and endurance. It promotes cardiovascular fitness while also allowing for creativity through different jumping patterns and routines.

  • Skipping: Similar to jump rope, skipping is a physical activity that enhances cardiovascular fitness, rhythm, and coordination. It's accessible to students of all ages and abilities and fosters a sense of achievement and self-confidence as they master new techniques.

  • Target Throwing: While not as physically demanding as the previous activities, target throwing still involves physical movement and hand-eye coordination. It provides opportunities for friendly competition and resilience-building as students aim to hit their targets.

  • Balancing on Tyres: Balancing activities on tyres require physical exertion and challenge students' proprioception and balance skills. While not as intense as team sports or jumping rope, it promotes physical confidence and spatial awareness.

  • Adult Supervisors Playing: While not directly involving physical activity for the students, the presence of adult supervisors actively participating in play fosters a supportive environment and encourages engagement. It helps boost students' self-esteem and creates a sense of belonging through the power of relationships.

  • Buddy Bench: The buddy bench promotes inclusivity and empathy but does not involve physical activity. It serves as a supportive space for students to connect emotionally and socially.

  • Outdoor Creativity: Engaging in outdoor creativity such as making bird feeders and creating natural art provides children with opportunities to connect with nature while fostering their creativity and imagination.

  • Handball: Playing handball promotes teamwork, coordination, and strategic thinking while providing an excellent cardiovascular workout.

  • Den Building: Building dens encourages collaboration, problem-solving, and imaginative play. It allows children to create their own spaces for imaginative adventures.

  • Obstacle Course Building: Constructing obstacle courses using open-ended resources like bread crates and tyres encourages creativity, physical activity, and risk-taking in a safe environment.

  • Lego: Building with Lego blocks stimulates spatial reasoning, fine motor skills, and creativity. It also offers opportunities for collaboration and storytelling as children work together to create intricate structures and scenes.

What has the impact been on your young people?

“On a practical level, children have broadened their friendship groups and participated in a range of physical and SEMH (Social, Emotional, and Mental Health) related activities that broaden their opportunities to play, take risks, and collaborate actively with their peers.”

Balancing the 7 Systems Seesaw

Jaak Panksepp, was a prominent neuroscientist, who developed the concept of ‘affective neuroscience’ to explore the neural mechanisms underlying emotional experiences. He identified seven core emotional systems in mammals: SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, LUST, CARE, PANIC/GRIEF, and PLAY. 

Panksepp's research has significantly influenced psychology, providing a foundational understanding of emotions and affective disorders. He believed that for mental wellbeing, these emotional systems should be balanced, with none dominating or being suppressed to the point of causing harm. 

This understanding underscores our advocacy for play wrapped in care, as we believe it is vital for transforming children's mental wellbeing and nurturing holistic development.

The Importance of Play

Play is crucial for various aspects of human development and wellbeing, especially during childhood. Here are 11 key reasons why play is so important:

  1. Cognitive Development: Play helps develop cognitive skills such as problem-solving, creativity, imagination, and critical thinking. It encourages experimentation and exploration, allowing individuals to learn and adapt to new situations.

  2. Social Development: Play promotes social interaction and cooperation. It helps children learn to share, take turns, negotiate, and resolve conflicts. It strengthens social bonds and fosters a sense of community.

  3. Emotional Development: Play allows individuals to express and regulate their emotions. It can be a safe outlet for processing difficult emotions and learning to cope with stress and anxiety.

  4. Physical Development: Physical play contributes to the development of gross and fine motor skills. It promotes physical fitness and overall health.

  5. Creativity and Imagination: Play encourages creativity and imaginative thinking. Whether through storytelling, drawing, building, or pretend play, individuals can explore new ideas and possibilities.

  6. Stress Reduction: Play can serve as a stress reliever by diverting attention from worries and providing a sense of joy and relaxation. Engaging in enjoyable activities can reduce cortisol levels.

  7. Learning through Experience: Play provides opportunities for hands-on learning. Whether through structured educational games or unstructured free play, individuals can gain practical knowledge and life skills.

  8. Problem-Solving: Play often involves challenges and obstacles that require problem-solving. This helps individuals develop strategies for overcoming difficulties, applicable to real-life situations.

  9. Bonding and Relationships: Play strengthens bonds between children and their caregivers, as well as between peers and friends.

  10. Lifelong Enjoyment: Developing a positive attitude towards play in childhood can lead to a lifelong appreciation for leisure activities, hobbies, and recreation. This contributes to a more balanced and fulfilling life.

  11. Cultural and Social Learning: Play often incorporates elements of culture and society, allowing individuals to learn about their environment, traditions, and societal norms.

Play is not just a frivolous activity; it serves as a fundamental aspect of human development and wellbeing. It helps individuals learn, grow, and thrive physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially.

A Call To Action

Kudos to Meg Davies and her team at Our Lady Immaculate Primary School for their exemplary commitment to nurturing children through play wrapped in care.

As we applaud their success, let's reflect on how we can integrate similar approaches into our own settings. 

How can we prioritise empathy and collaboration in our play environments? What activities can we introduce to foster holistic development in our schools?

By drawing inspiration from Meg Davies and her team, we can create environments where every child thrives through the transformative power of play wrapped in care.

Take The First Step

We have created the ‘Enhancing Engagement Scorecard’ to help you track your progress in implementing Trauma Informed PE practice within 2 minutes. 

This scorecard acts as a valuable tool for self-reflection and continuous improvement.  Click on the link to take the first step and get your score.

Taster Course For You

Once completed we will send you a login to our ‘Taster Trauma Informed PE Course’ so you can develop your understanding of what a trauma-informed approach is, what Adverse Childhood Experiences are, and how this affects children in the classroom at the moment and their life chances, based on the ACEs studies.

Take the first step today to creating a better future for you and your young people here.

Join Our Waiting List

We offer a range of services from courses, keynote speaking, consultancy and our upcoming book 'Time to RISE Up'. 

You can join our waiting list here and we will reach out to you:

Make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

Have a brilliant week.

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