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Extending Play Options In Summer Weather

There are often unusual and unique ways that support a child’s eye view in which they set things up that most educators would not have considered -but this is a golden opportunity to be inspired!

Written by: Early Educational Advisor - Jo Harris  

Young children are constantly learning about the way their bodies work and regulate to keep themselves healthy through the guidance of their parents, educators, and others.

As adults, we have had the repetition of life experiences to fall back on to prepare for each day and season as they happen. We know how to control and manipulate our environment with ease and ability. 

In summer, we know how to keep ourselves cool and often shift and adjust our location to maintain and regulate comfort, without even thinking. For children, especially small children, this can be more difficult as they are largely dependent on others to advocate and model responses to meet their changing needs. 

During the hottest months in a learning environment, we need to carefully consider our choice and use of resources, to adjust to the temperature rises throughout the day. 

While water and sand play might seem like obvious choices to help cool little bodies, some Educators can be reluctant to offer sensory and messy play spaces, often due to lack of space, or lack of resources.

Options when space is limited

Often with mud or water play the activities are set up in the outdoor spaces and are largely weather dependent. 

Trays are sometimes bulky or heavy to move around easily or safely and are only used for one purpose. 

Messy play is understandably very popular with many children, but for educators, it can be challenging to maintain careful supervision and keep play spaces clean and tidy at the same time. 

A lack of space does not have to mean a compromise on what program you provide. Many educational spaces are not custom-built, meaning it can be more difficult to find room to offer many activities.

Here are some simple suggestions to create a feeling of space in your program:

  • Plan activities that can be moved between environments. Tuff Trays are a great addition to any centre and come in 2 sizes with an option of a stand.


  • Set up (traditionally) indoor-based experiences in the outdoors such as role play, dress-ups, music, and dancing


  • Separate one tabletop with space for four children, including two (or more) different resources.


Having the option of multiple trays can help children identify their dedicated space and encourage them to take turns in all available activities.

This can be a great way to introduce variety and activity in one space, and even rejuvenate the interest of the children in the materials. An unexpected benefit may be that the activity stays out longer than educators may have anticipated, simply by making small changes.

Options for when resources are limited

Sometimes you don’t need more resources, but instead a different way of looking at old favourites to give them a new lease of life. 

When observing children, have you closely seen and heard how children use resources offered to them? 

It can also be a very interesting exercise to ask children to reset an activity when they have finished with it. 

There are often unusual and unique ways that support a child’s eye view in which they set things up that most educators would not have considered -but this is a golden opportunity to be inspired!

Introducing a pestle and mortar in activities like cooking, often seen in sand or mud play, children can manipulate the tools to create small experimentation stations when set up on a tabletop or tray, which could easily be offered indoors or outdoors.

Teas, potions, perfumes, soups, and other offerings can be made by gathering flowers, leaves, grass, and stones. 

Placing these items into a tray either on level ground or elevated at children’s height can support the extension of play and creativity.

Key learning concepts include science, maths, and literacy through experimentation, sorting, and classifying in traditional and non-traditional ways, that help meet our learners where they are. 

Including other items such as below which can provide prompts for sorting, mixing, and combining:

  • natural or coloured shells, 
  • pebbles, 
  • spoons & scoops
  • kitchen utensils 

There is something novel about being able to participate in experiences that can be transported to move with the children like:

  • creating with chalk on a chalkboard
  • painting with water or paint on an outdoor easel
  • drawing with paper and a clipboard
  • reading and sharing stories under the shade of a tree


Educators can then have the freedom to support children to explore and scaffold their learning, with the familiarity of resources that can easily draw upon skills including problem-solving and teamwork.

By reimagining the use of indoor/outdoor programming for parts of the day it is possible to create a much-needed feeling of both additional space and extra resources.

A Painting Window - This is a great resource for easy transport from inside to out.
Giant Cushions are a cost-effective resource to create dedicated spaces outdoors for reading or just relaxing.

Messy Play Essential

Activity Trays are a great addition to existing equipment and materials as they can help to create both space as well as being a functional resource. 

Ideal as a workspace and for storage, these trays are easy to transport from one space to another with the optional, adjustable to 2 heights, is a lightweight stand available to purchase separately. It can even be folded away when not in use - another space-saving feature!

Mirrors as an additional accessory that fits inside trays can be a provocation for reflection and dimension play with blocks, marbles, and other small items for children to explore properties such as dimensions and angles.

Educators may choose to add ice blocks, shaving foam, or finger paint on top of the tray. To make washing up when finished much easier for children, simply remove it and have them clean their hands in the larger tray full of soapy water underneath!

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