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The positive power of play

Making Waves pound;9.95. 101 Games for Self-Esteem pound;14.95. By Jenny Mosley and Helen Sonnet.

All Year Round - Exciting Ideas for Peaceful Playtimes. pound;19.95. By Jenny Mosley and Georgia Thorp. LDA www.LDAlearning.comTel: 01223 357788.

Playtime: a chance to play and let off steam, or a friendless, dull or even hostile experience? The inspirational Jenny Mosley and her co-authors aim not just to make playtimes trouble-free, but to use them to help raise children's self-esteem and create "an emotionally healthy school".

According to Making Waves, "Many schools possess a parachute but many teachers do not know what to do with it". Before anyone suggests "bail out", let me emphasise that we are talking hall or playground games here, with feet firmly on the ground. Parachute games are a wonderful way to have fun and build teams. Watch a group of children running underneath the billowing canopy or sitting inside a parachute "tent" - it is an uplifting experience.

The sections include tent games, ball games and calming and ending games. Some, like Sock Snatch (the title explains it all), are only for the brave; others, like Excitaball (rolling a ball on the parachute), are hypnotic and calming. Store this book in the bag with the 'chute.

101 Games for Self-Esteem comprises everything from simple word games to whole-class action. The themed sections include building group identity, developing attention skills and motivating through music. All promote friendship, co-operation and trust and many will be worth a try in schools, summer schemes and playgroups.

As a practical guide to systematically transforming playtimes, All Year Round is hard to beat. The book's premise is that most negative playground issues stem from children being bored and lacking the skills necessary to make friends and co-operate. Raising the self-esteem of lunchtime supervisors is the first step - who says dinner ladies don't count? Trained and valued supervisors then teach the children to play traditional (and parachute) games and help ensure that the moral ethos of the school is taken outside to the playground. Detailed action plans and case studies are supported by colourful photographs and photocopiable resources.

Zoning the playground, creating rules that work, developing a football policy and managing the dreaded wet play are set alongside advice on recruiting and deploying "Playground Friends" - monitors with status - and on setting up a "Friendship Stop" for children who have no one to play with. Don't listen to the cynic who says "Who will wait at the Friendship Stop and admit to having no friends?" - they work, and the caring ethos which underpins them is at the heart of primary education.

Kevin Harcombe is head of Redlands primary, Fareham, Hampshire

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