It’s clear that children are growing up in an ever complicated and ever evolving world. Within our mainstream education system, children are subjected to more testing, more evaluation, and analysis at increasingly younger ages.
Through this rigorous process of uniform assessment, has an organic sense of creativity and fun been sacrificed in favour of academic achievement?
Jeff says “Encouraging children to express their creativity is something we’ve worked very hard to profile. Over a number of years there has been a great deal of research into the barriers that children face to play. The number one offender is invariably traffic, followed by parental anxiety about ‘stranger danger’.
Research has shown that other reasons for children not playing out as much as they and their parents would like include; anxieties about bullying, poorly maintained or boring playgrounds and undue pressure on children’s and adults’ time from school and work.
“Encouraging children to express their creativity is something we’ve worked very hard to profile”
Strong links have been made between the decline of playtime and a range of poor health trends. Also as playtime is being restricted more and more, there is a huge reduction in personal freedom for children and their development has suffered as a consequence”
It is this passion for nurturing children which motivates the staff and trustees at Children’s Scrapstore.
The charity collects safe waste from businesses which can be re-used as low cost creative resources for children. They store the resources in the scrap warehouse in Bristol and member groups collect all the resources they need for children to get creative or play.
The scrap warehouse stocks all sorts of things people need for creative play such as paper and card, foam, plastic pots, tubes and tubs, netting, fabric, books, CDs and all manner of off cuts and left over’s from business.
“Playtime does not need to be about the latest flashing toys or gadgets; far from it. The best way to really help children expand their creativity is by letting their imagination run wild and build from there.
Reduce, recycle…and don’t forget reuse
The first step for The Children’s Scrapstore was to create their resource centre, and build up a network of willing businesses who could provide safe materials. From there, the charity has grown from strength to strength as they began to build their membership of people accessing supplies.
The process of getting materials into the Scrapstore is a source of enthusiasm for Jeff as helping children grow is.
“Our scrapstore project is all about reuse: In the environmental cycle, you get reduce, reuse and recycle. Reuse is the most unrecognised of the triangle, as a principle and as a Government supported aim.
We are a reuse organisation, and that’s how we divert from landfill. The fact that we are using waste materials as play things, will hopefully plant a seed for future generations to think how they protect their environment and support the well-being of children. Ideally there will be a marriage of both ideas; thinking creatively about protecting our environment”
Since children spend most of their time at school and are monitored even closer, Jeff realised that the next step was to link schools and the charity, and so the invention of Scrapstore PlayPods came about. It was a collaboration of government aims and local authority support that helped to make it a reality and it has gone from strength to strength. PlayPods are now being used in over 270 primary schools where over 80,000 children now have the freedom to play with safe scrap.
PlayPods are designer sheds and sit in a school playground. These treasure chests of materials and equipment encourage children to play creatively, use their imagination and energy, make new friends, discover new skills, and enjoy their play time.
Jeff has been working with schools to develop PlayPods, and many parents and teachers have remarked on the positive impact they have made in playgrounds.
“Schools experience over 60% reduction in incidents and accidents during lunchtimes and the overwhelming feedback is that children are happier in school and happier to go to school. Teachers report that children seem more attentive in lessons and less disruptive as their energies and imaginations have been used during the break.
They are learning social skills too, as prior to a Scrapstore PlayPod being installed many children would only play in small single gender groups, whereas after children play together across age ranges and mixed gender and so learn more about socialising and working together.”
“We are a reuse organisation, and that’s how we divert from landfill. The fact that we are using waste materials as play things, will hopefully plant a seed for future generations to think how they protect their environment and support the well-being of children. Ideally there will be a marriage of both ideas; thinking creatively about protecting our environment”
It started as a small operation from a little garage, but Children’s Scrapstore has grown to a multi-site charity and resource centre. Jeff has ambitious plans to keep the organisation growing, and branching out across the country, but recognises the need to keep the needs of children and the environment their focus.
“Children’s Scrapstore has a lot to do. We have been fortunate enough to stumble on the right mixture of environmental and social support which facilitates benefits in both areas. To help children is a fantastic reward and to do so while helping the environment is an integration which is a unique and fabulous double benefit.
We need to keep on developing what we do and to achieve that we need to carry on with the process of professionalising everything that we do. We have to stay true to our members and our roots while upgrading practices and progressing plans for getting all children to have access to these wonderful and environmental resources.
As a model we demonstrate what can be done. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us as we were invented by others who cared about our planet and our society and who had a vision which they followed. Our job is to make sure we carry on their intentions and yet remain flexible and dedicated to widen the reach of this fantastic project” concluded Jeff.
And you may as well have fun at the same time.
words: chris yong
This charity collects safe waste from businesses and turns them into arts and crafts; they encourage children of all ages to use their imagination and creativity by ‘making waste things into playthings’. The project began in 1983 as a very small venture operating out of a residential garage – and now have three scrapstores across the South West.
Triodos Bank supported Children’s Scrapstore to buy their premises in Bristol.
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