Outside School Hours Research Hub

Vignette 4 – Skipping

It was a busy time at Our Place OSHC. The temperature had cooled a little and children were eager to go outside and play. The educators supported children’s play by giving them space to form their own groups and activities, talking to them about the equipment they wanted and moving to spaces where children were most likely to need support. Kavita noticed a group of 4 or 5 older children taking a long skipping rope to the grassy area. The children started a skipping game, taking turns to skip and counting the number consecutive jumps each child made.

The game was quite competitive with each child trying to beat their friends. After about 15 minutes, the game took a new form with the group attempt to have 2 or 3 children jumping at one time. The group soon mastered the new skill and wanted to increase the number of jumpers. Isabella suggested getting other children to participate so that they could increase the challenge and have more children jumping. Group members ran excitedly around the program asking other children to join. Victor also began asking educators if they would like to play. 

Soon there was a group of about 16 children and educators playing the skipping game. The experience was loud and funny. Everybody was trying hard to increase the number of people skipping at once. Some older children were strategising, trying to think of new ways to succeed. They explored the order of jumpers, how they were positioned, the speed of the rope and the best surface to jump.

The activity soon became the focus of play that afternoon with almost the whole program watching the fun. Ariana bought a speaker out, taking the role of DJ to play music for everyone. One of the educators started an impromptu cheer squad, leading a fresh count every time a new jump started, and cheering every attempt when it ended.  

That afternoon when the children had gone home, the educators reflected on how successful the activity had been, particularly for the older children. Kate observed that the whole experience was created and directed by the older children, who ran it inclusively and safely. Jai also commented how immersed all of the children were in the experience.

Jai suggested that this was likely because the play was challenging which made the activity engaging for the older children. The educators reflected on the experience, trying to understand how the play emerged and what they might do to support other experiences like this.

Outcome 1: Children and young people have a strong sense of identity 

Children feel confident to explore and take risks when they feel safe and supported. Older children sometimes complain that play in OSHC doesn’t offer sufficient challenge or engagement. This vignette provides one example of how to support older children’s identities as confident risk-takers. The staff at Our Place OSHC recognised the older children’s capabilities by giving them the space to develop their own play experience, which they found challenging and engaging. The educators communicated high expectations for the older children by trusting them to conduct their play safely. They did this by allowing the children to develop their play without intervening unnecessarily.   

This experience supported the children’s identities as autonomous and resilient. The children were responsible for the conduct of the activity, setting the challenge at a level suited to their abilities. Because the activity was challenging, the children engaged deeply in the play, persisting with various iterations of the skipping game for well over an hour. This help them to take considered risks, and embracing the constant challenges that the game presented.   

One aspect of this experience that resonated with the educators was how it supported the older children’s identities as members of a community. The game provided the children with the opportunity to demonstrate their interest in the activity and engage other children in play. Kate noticed the respectful ways they engaged younger children. The older children demonstrated great patience with the younger children’s abilities and modified the activity to include their different needs. Jai noted that respectful interactions also supported the identities of the other children, allowing them to also see themselves as capable and respected.  

Outcome 3: Children and young people have a strong sense of wellbeing 

Wellbeing includes psychological, social and physical aspects. This activity supported all of these aspects in multiple ways. The skipping activity gave all children an opportunity to practise their fine and gross motor skills. The older children were respectful of different abilities, allowing others to skip alongside them at a level that they found challenging but achievable. The physical elements of this play helped all children to experience joy in a complex physical experience, increasing the likelihood that they would seek out similar activities in the future. The activity also gave the older children the opportunity to take responsibility for their safety and the safety of others. They set the activity at an appropriate level and demonstrated care for the younger children.  

This activity also supported children’s psychological and social wellbeing. The activity was conducted with a spirit of cooperation and joy, meaning that everybody felt safe and respected. The activity included shared celebration of achievements. Every time a new benchmark was achieved, children cheered each other on and clapped. Certainly, there were times when some children were frustrated or disappointed at falling short of the goals they set, but the children all interacted in ways that respected their differences. Psychological wellbeing has many dimensions, and this activity supported many of these.

Outcome 4: Children and young people are confident and involved learners

In OSHC, when children direct their own play, they collaboratively to challenge the thinking and skill development of themselves and others. It can challenge and extend their thinking which helps to build the inquiry processes necessary for lifelong learning. In this vignette, the children were engaged in shared solving of the problem of how to get as many people skipping at once. They demonstrated and developed important learning dispositions such as curiosity, concentration and the ability to celebrate achievements.   

This activity also supported children to learn in collaborative ways. They used ideas and feedback from each other to consider the challenge and devise new strategies. In devising their strategies they employed a range of thinking processes including trial and error, hypothesising, making predictions and experimenting. Kate and Jai reflected on how the children demonstrated a shared sense of enjoyment in the learning experience.

Outcome 5: Children and young people are effective communicators

OSHC settings provide important opportunities for children to develop communication skills. In this vignette, the older children used their communication in multiple ways with younger children and educators in the skipping activity. They were able to communicate the purpose and enjoyment of the activity to others to engage them in play. They then practised their communication skills teaching others the activity and directing the problem-solving aspect of the play. During this activity, the children not only communicated their own ideas but were also able to listen to, understand and respect the contributions of other children and educators. This was a rich, emergent play experience that supported complex interactions and shared decision-making.

Invitation: OSHC Research Study

We want to understand what OSHC educators know about children’s mental health and how they currently help children with emotional and behavioural needs.

If you are an Australian OSHC educator who works with primary school-aged children, we invite you to take part in our study.