Boys 'n' girls go out to play

18th April 2008 at 01:00
Tinged with a touch of nostalgia, these books will make child's play of education. The perfect start to summer..

Nature's Playthings

Alison Wilson Smith

Merlin Unwin Books


Pooh sticks, pond dipping. Do we really need a book to tell us how to do these things? The answer, sadly, is probably yes. Unless you live in the countryside, many of these traditional childhood games and activities may be unfamiliar, and Alison Wilson Smith has done us a great service in reminding us that children don't need the latest hi-tech gadget to have fun.

Nature's Playthings is packed with simple yet creative ideas for outdoor play, inspired almost entirely by the author's recollections of her childhood.

The book is a great resource for those who want to encourage healthy outdoor play and a hands-on approach to learning about nature. However, I wouldn't recommend showing your class how to make itching powder from rosehips, unless you want an overly lively lesson.

The emphasis here is not upon novelty, but the revival of old favourites. The simplicity of this back to basics approach proves a refreshing antidote to the highly technological base of modern living for many children.

However, some teachers may feel that there are not enough new ideas here to justify the price tag. In addition, although some may find the author's trips down memory lane charming, others may find them irritating.

Although geared primarily towards parents, many of its ideas are also appropriate for those who teach key stage 1 and the lower years of KS2.

Drawing on the author's ideas will help teachers of these age groups to get their pupils outside, having fun and, most of all, learning about their immediate environment.

Usefully grouped according to season, suggestions for activities are many and varied. The book is also enlivened with rhymes on a range of nature-related subjects, appealing photographs, useful illustrations and interesting facts.

The focus of Nature's Playthings, upon play and nature, is a timely one; a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the book's publishers. With the Department for Children, Schools and Families set to publish a play strategy by the summer, the importance of outdoor play for children's learning and development has been firmly established.

Indeed, last December, the Children's Plan stated that outdoor activities were important, among other things, for developing children's social skills, teaching them how to deal with taking risks and improving their health.

This book will help teachers to achieve such aims, while simultaneously appealing to the nostalgia of anyone who remembers the innocent pleasures of outdoor play.

Laura Frascona

PE Outdoor and Adventurous Activities 3rd Edition

David Balazik

AC Black Publishers Ltd


This is a book that is useful in creating full lessons and short brain teaser exercises.

Its layout is excellent, easy to follow and contains photocopiable exercises and records of achievement that can be reproduced for each child.

The lesson plans are detailed and incorporate a full list of resources required for each lesson. On the whole it is an excellent resource for anyone involved in the world of outdoor education, whether that be a school, outdoor activities centre or local scout or guide group.

Neil Hulme teaches ICT at Hutton Grammar School in Preston, Lancashire

Growing Green: A Young Person's Guide to Taking Care of the Planet

Christina Goodings

Illustrations by Masumi Furukawa

Lion Hudson Plc


This book is appropriate for KS1 pupils. It is colourful with great illustrations and is informative, in a basic but interesting way.

As I read it lots of ideas became apparent for discussion - you can imagine children asking questions about where their food comes from and how they travel to school.

It would give them awareness of issues and it covers negative environmental issues without being too scary.

It would be great for a focus week on the environment or just on a bookshelf. Although there is quite a lot of text for little ones, my Year 6s loved it

Cas Ellis.

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