Grade R – Practical Ideas: Support For Creating Stimulating Indoor And Out Door.

This document has been developed to achieve the following:

• How ‘learning through play’ is correctly suited to the development abilities of Grade R learners;
• How learning outcomes are achieved through play;
• How to create stimulating indoor and outdoor learning environments with low budgets and,
• How the Grade R programme is intended to prepare learners for formal learning and teaching to be encountered in Grade 1 and higher.

  1. Creating Stimulating Indoor and Outdoor Learning Environments: Provides reasons why play is important, ideas on planning and organising the space and interest areas, choosing, storing and labeling materials, a suggested list of materials to add to interest areas and possible ways to overcome challenges.
  2. Managing the Daily Programme: Provides reasons why a daily programme is important, an example of a half day programme and its segments, the role of teacher in involving learners, an understanding of the concepts of, and ideas for supporting emergent reading, writing and numbers, integrating learning areas, observing and assessing learning, and ways to overcome possible challenges.
  3. Responsive Interaction Strategies: Provides reasons why responsive interaction is important, ways of finding the right approach, the teacher as a facilitator of learning and teaching, steps to get started, identifying learning outcomes, benefits to learners and society.


Why play is important ?

All over the world children play. Famous architects were once children who showed a love for building and stacking things when they were very young. Famous singers and dancers first showed their talents when they were children. Many professional and famous people showed their interest in particular fields when they were very young children. The successful ones are usually those who were encouraged and supported by teachers and parents to be spontaneous, to explore and to experiment.

Memories of our own childhood play activities like ‘spontaneous hide-and-seek’ show us that we had fun about completing tasks, we were able to control our lives at that moment, we created and changed rules of the game if everyone agreed. We did all this without anyone telling us how to play.

If play is spontaneous and chosen by the child, then why do parents and teachers worry that they are not learning?

Children engage in many types of play based on the development of their thinking, reasoning, language and social skills. There are different types of play:
Exploratory play: Children enjoy exploring the properties and functions of materials such as wool, string, glue or paste, play dough, sand and stones.
Constructive play: Children enjoy building and making things with blocks, cardboard rolls, scrap wood,
styrofoam, plastic bottles, boxes or tins.
Pretend play: Children enjoy to pretend and role-play with materials such as dress up clothes, hair
dryers, mirrors, scarves, belts, helmets, bags or suit cases.
Games: Children enjoy card and board games, and they enjoy using materials to make their own games such as cards, dice, game counters.

Although these play types differ from each other, they all promote language and communication, social and physical, thinking and reasoning skills. When grouped together in this way we see that children are learning in many different ways while they play.
Have you ever heard or read this popular saying ? ‘Play is the work of children.’

The Indoor Learning Environment

Why indoor planning is important?
Children have a natural desire to explore their world. A stimulating setting will enable spontaneous discovery if you prepare their indoor and outdoor environments. Much thought should go into the organisation of materials and spaces to support children’s learning.
Plan the activities that children enjoy doing:
Plan activities for the children such as painting, drawing, cutting, taking things apart and
putting them back together, talking about what they are doing, building with blocks or
scrap boxes and materials, cutting and pasting, pretending to write, read, be a doctor, a
taxi driver, finding out about things, thinking about how to do things, listening to and
making music.
Plan ways to organise the space, store and label the areas of play, and materials as
suggested below:
Planning the indoor learning environment

  • Organize the space: Lay out interest areas to provide activities such as block play, art and writing
    activities, pretend play, and reading activities. • Provide space for transition activities such as greeting time, story time and snack time.
  • Storing materials: Store materials in the places where they will be used, within reach of the children, in clear or open containers such as see-through plastic containers, trays or baskets.
  • Label materials: Write labels on containers and shelves, using easily understood symbols. This makes it easy for children to take and return materials on their own.
  • Make visual borders to separate the areas by using low shelves, chairs, mats or carpets, rope, low home-made cardboard screens that children can see over and be seen.
  • Allow enough space in each area for a small group of children to play comfortably.
  • Allow space at children’s eye level to display children’s own drawings, paintings or any other work. Provide a space on a small table or low shelf to display children’s own models.
  • Constantly change and adapt these spaces throughout the year.
  • During the first and second terms, give a large space the “pretend areas”, e.g. house, shop or hairdresser.
  • During the third and fourth term, make the writing area bigger as more children become interested in writing.
  • Draw a plan of your classroom and think of what you would like to change.
  • Draw a second plan to show the changes you will make.


Choosing materials
Choose materials that will interest the children. What do children talk about?
Once you know what the children’s interests are, choose additional materials that will extend further learning. For example, children may be talking about the recent petrol shortage.
You can:
Bring pieces of hose pipe, empty carton rolls, empty oil tins or bottles, and petrol attendants’ uniforms.
Put these in the block area to represent items used at petrol stations for children to play out real life experiences.
For example, collect empty carton rolls of different sizes, and put these in the house and
art and block areas and other interest areas.
Choose materials that reflect the children’s experiences and cultures. Provide a wide range of real-life materials, for example, old cake tins, basins, irons, toasters, kettles.
Children love to use real things because these objects enable them to imitate the roles of adults.
Find items that can be used in a variety of ways.

  • Store materials on low level open shelves or in boxes so that children can easily reach them. Children can then be independent in finding, using and returning the materials.
  • Store materials in see-through containers, trays, low-cut boxes for children to see into them.
  • Store materials in the same place to give children a sense of security and independence. Principle: ‘Children need to become independent and solve problems.

Opportunities are lost if adults choose materials for them.

Labeling Materials

  • Label the interest areas using print and pictures- e.g. ‘Block Area’, ‘Quiet Toy Area’,Reading Area’
  • Label both shelves and containers so that children can find and put away materials on their own.
  • Use labels that children can understand, for example: use real objects, tracings, drawings or catalogue pictures.
  • Label containers with items showing what pieces are inside, e.g. an actual shoe, or a picture of a shoe. Arrange the containers so that the children can return things by matching the shoe or the drawing of the shoe.
  • Labels help children identify where materials are stored.
  • Labels make cleaning-up an easy task.
  • All this helps the children to sort, classify, order and match.

You can build confidence and increase motivation if children are able to choose their own activities
and materials, talk about what they are doing, and share their achievements with others.

Adding materials to your classroom

The task of adding materials to the interest areas may seem difficult. However, any teacher in any setting can collect a wide variety of materials through careful planning.
Planning helps us to think about what we want to add, how will we get the materials, by when do we want it, and who can help.

Step 1: Look at the materials list (on the previous pages). Tick the items you would like to add to your classroom. Add to the list by writing in any materials you have, but are not on the list.
Step 2: Make a list of the materials you would like to add to each area.
Step 3: Make a list of people who can help you collect the materials, for example, parents and learners, staff, factories, shops, banks, churches, family members, and friends.
Step 4: Call a parent meeting to explain what you need, and why you want those materials.
Step 5: Invite parents to help you label and store the materials.

Overcoming practical challenges

Don’t think: “A Grade R class needs to look like a Grade 1 class”.
Ensure that parents and staff understand that Grade R children are still getting ready for formal teaching and learning. Learning through play activities prepares them for Grade 1.
Don’t despair: “If there are no materials or equipment and funds to provide a stimulating environment”
The whole school development plan has a role to play in providing resources for Grade R classes.
Don’t worry: “I need to keep the materials locked up because children fight over them and may break them.” Actually, children fight and things break when there are too few interesting things to play with. Use the lists to add things that the children can play with. In this way children have more interesting things to choose from which will reduce fighting!
Don’t worry if parents want their children in Grade R to be able to write and read. In Grade R children are still developing pre-reading and writing skills. Teaching reading and writing is best left to Grade 1 teachers they are specially trained to do this job.
Don’t assume that children are not interested in the posters displayed in the class. Take one poster at a time and set aside time for discussion about the poster. Talk about what they see happening in the pictures. Add questions to prompt the children’s thinking.

The Outdoor Learning Environment

Why outdoor play is important?
‘Young children should be entitled to high quality outdoor learning opportunities.’ (Early-Education U.K. 2001). The outdoor learning environment is like an extension of the indoor environment. The outdoor space forms an essential part of the Grade R curriculum. It is therefore just as important as the indoor environment.
Today children still love open spaces where they can run, make a noise, enjoy the sun and fresh air, and be in contact with nature. The outdoor environment provides plenty of opportunities for stimulating all types of play. It does not require expensive equipment and materials.
Planning the outdoor learning environment
There are many ways to plan for outdoor play, but the best way is to watch children’s interests and plan from a child’s perspective.
· Plan for ‘spur of the moment’ events:
Keep materials and equipment that can be used spontaneously, e.g. boxes containing off-cut materials, an old tape recorder and cassette tapes with various types of music, home made instruments, scarves and ribbons for dancing.
· Integrate topic planning:
Integrate indoor topic ideas with outside ideas, e.g. an indoors shop could be equipped with boxes or spaces outside for ‘taxi’s’, cars or buses, which can become transport for shoppers.
· Focused plans:
Plan small group activities for outside, with specific learning outcomes. For example, prepare and provide materials for children to use in the sand area to convey the concept of light and heavy; or in the water area the concept of float and sink.

Do you remember what you loved to do outdoors when you were a child? What did you do? Whom did you play with? What equipment and materials did you use? Did you dig in the soil, add water and make mud cakes? Did you play with tins, twigs and stones? Did you play at mommies and daddies with a piece of wood wrapped in a cloth for a baby? Did you lie flat on your tummy following a trail of ants, or did you run chasing a butterfly? Do you think children today still like to play in the same way?

Games and songs:
Plan learning outcomes for games and songs as they provide many opportunities for
children to learn different attitudes, skills and concepts.
The games should include learning to take turns, sharing, co-operating and working as
part of a group.

Organising the space

Divide the space into different play interest areas. There can be spaces for:
• children to run, climb, jump;
• children to play in small groups;
• a quiet place for children who prefer to sit and relax;
• a place for children to experiment (water, sand and science activities); and
• a place for pretend play.
Choosing the materials and equipment
Below is a suggested list of materials and equipment suitable to stimulate a variety of play types. You may add your own ideas to the list
• Climbing
Climbing equipment, jungle gyms, climbing nets, ladders (rope or step
• Balancing
Balancing beams, planks supported by bricks, tyres, see-saw and stilts (could
be made with tins and rope)
• Swinging
Swings, monkey ropes, tyre swings
• Sliding
Slide, ramps, flattened cardboard boxes
• Play inside
Play house, large boxes, tunnels (cement pipes or large drums)
• Sand and water play
Sand pit or sand tray, tins, plastic containers, enamel mugs, pots, pans, cake
pans or trays, funnels, sieves, rice colanders, spoons and jugs
• Water
Bath, basins or water table, plastic bottles, funnels, plastic containers, jugs,
squeeze bottles, sponges, containers with holes, straws and eggbeater or egg
• Jumping in or over
Skipping ropes, tyres or tubes, old mattress
• Pulling along, pushing and riding
Boxes or plastic crates with a rope to pull along, tyres, tricycles, wheelbarrows
and prams
• Pretend play
Empty paint bucket, adult-size paint brushes, traffic signs and track, steering wheels of old cars, hats, helmets, adult-size clothes, bags, empty boxes (cereal and large), tins, plastic containers, sunglasses, binoculars, old suitcases and cooler bags.

While all learners can flourish outdoors, research shows that those children with high
physical abilities (often boys) benefit from quality outdoor activities. Such children may
struggle indoors but ‘shine’ outside where more physical and hands-on experiences are
provided.’(South Gloucestershire Council)

• Catching, throwing, kicking and hitting
Bean bags, large and small balls, bats, goal posts and hoops
• Building
Blocks, planks, old sheets, small carpets, large and small cardboard boxes,
string, rope, pegs, tyres and tubes.
• Gardening
Pot plants, a small garden patch, container for watering, garden tools and
Storing materials
Store materials that need to be carried daily from the place of storage to the outdoors
every day in strong containers such as plastic crates or cardboard boxes. Involve
children in the task of carrying the containers to and from the interest areas.
Labeling containers and materials
Label each container with symbols or pictures so that children return the materials to the
correct containers after use.

Safety is important

Always make sure that the outdoor play area and equipment is safe and clean.
Inspect all equipment, materials and the playground before children are invited to play outdoors.
We believe
Play is the work of children. The more opportunities children have to play, the more they learn.

Overcoming practical challenges

Don’t say: “There is no space for outdoor play.” Where there is no space for outdoor play, you can plan regular visits to a nearby park or a big open space near the school. Arrange with parent to assist with supervision. Take a range of materials for children to enjoy different types of play.

Don’t let people say: “Outdoor play is not really learning, and it is not important.” Persuade all staff, parents and SGB’s that important in the curriculum as books and pencils. Outdoor equipment is an investment; it is not an ‘optional extra’.

Separate the little ones: Grade R learners should have play breaks at different times. Adapt your programme so that Grade R different times from older learners.

Don’t accept: “There is no dedicated area for a Grade R outdoor area.” The whole school development plan should have a long-term strategy for Grade R learners to learn outdoors in accessible and well
resourced outdoor areas. In the meantime, you can arrange activities in small spaces.

Don’t complain: “There are no funds to buy equipment.” Limited funds should not stop you from creating a stimulating outdoor area. You can do a lot with few resources. Plan for the things you can collect with the help of parents and the community. Plan for fund-raising events.

Take care: “Vandalism continues to be a problem.” Appeal to the whole school community to safeguard your resources and facilities.

Department of Education
Sol Plaatje House
123 Schoeman Street
Private Bag X895
Pretoria 0001
Tel: +27 12 312-5343/5435
Fax: +27 12 323-0003
Department of Education, Pretoria