We love our Wee Skelfs holiday club. But we know that some parents can find it nerve-wracking when we tell them that it's based on child-led play. So we've written this post to explain what that means for our Skelfs and how we think they benefit.
At Skelfs, your wee ones get the opportunity to explore their surroundings on their own. They can tackle the mud slide, splash in the burn, or play in the trees. While this is exciting in itself, for them it can be so much more. We've seen dens made into medieval camps, the burn turn into a wide, flowing river, and the tree house into a fort, theatre or any other structure you can imagine. If they need a change, they can come and see what our team is up to, join in with crafts or woodworking, or start an entirely new project.
This works because we set out the basic rules at the start of each day. Before the Skelfs are let loose, our staff make sure they understand where the boundaries of Skelf-land are. They also chat through the risks that the kids might encounter, and the ways in which they might avoid - or deal with - those risks. All kids know where the staff will be throughout the day. They know they can get involved in different activities, or simply find someone to talk to.
Why have we taken this approach? Well, it's based on years of research! A 2015 study, that systematically evaluated a range of other research papers, revealed the overall positive effects of what they called 'risky outdoor play'. These benefits could be found in a variety of health and behavioural indicators. A further study that year identified that this type of play was necessary for kids to develop a wide range of skills, including those that enabled them to engage in social situations, solve problems and negotiate with others. And research cited in the PlayScotland Power of Play report argues that facing an element of risk during play can help kids build confidence, resilience and self esteem. It can also help develop imagination and contribute to the ability to learn.
The research also demonstrates the importance of physical exercise and has contributed to specific guidelines on the amount and type of exercise that children and young people should get. According to that guidance, kids should aim for an average of at least 60 minutes per day across the week to help develop movement skills as well as muscle and bone strength. Activities like playing outside, running, jumping and climbing are all cited as ways to get the type of exercise that's most beneficial. Matched with what we now know about the benefits of the contact with nature - on physical health, cognitive functioning and psychological well-being - it really was the only way for us to go!
We think this works really well for our Wee Skelfs and have seen them open up to new experiences, find new ways to talk to each other and solve tricky problems. If you think your Wee Skelfs could benefit from this approach, you can book your place now. We're open for the October week!
Just remember, they will come home muddy!