I was browsing in search of presents for Christmas and I came across the most hilarious items for sale. I do not think the seller intended these items to be funny and it is more of an awkward funny than gut splitting hilarious. Here are a few of the items for sale (I do not name the company!):
Wood stump - $169 for one
Risky play set of 5 stumps of different heights - $450
Risky play path (boards) - $219
Outdoor blocks (left over wood scraps) set of 25 - $60
Messy play mud kitchen set - $414
Mud kitchen - $809
Creative crates (basically milk crates) set of 8 - $257
Now, all this had my jaw dropping, was this a joke? I couldn’t believe this was a thing! But then I thought, if the big companies that supply child care programs and schools are now selling these materials, I suppose it shows us that outdoor play and learning is hitting the mainstream, which is great.
BUT, seriously, do not purchase these things! If you happen to come into a chunk of money to use on outdoor play, invest it in staff training and clothing for children and staff. I have never heard a program or school say that materials are their barrier to getting outside, it is almost always staff confidence and skills outside along with appropriate clothing for everyone. For $2378 I could provide some amazing on-going PD for your staff (hint, hint)!
Where do you get these items then? Here are a few great sources I have found:
Parents. #1 place to start. Let parents know what types of materials you are looking for and in no time, you will have more than you need!
Thrift stores. Yes, this will cost a bit, but not $414 for mud kitchen supplies! You never know what you will find, especially in the kitchen section.
Arborists. Contact a few local companies and you will have your stump needs met in no time, for free.
Post-secondary or high school trade programs. PVC pipe? Wood ends? Need a bench? You never know what they will be able to support you with.
Alleys. Just last week I scored a garden hose and a ladder to add to my loose parts/materials stash.
Where else? These are just a few ideas, where is you favourite place for outdoor play materials?
Outdoor play and learning needs to be accessible to all and one way we can work towards that is by embracing an adventurous and curious philosophy when it comes to finding and growing the materials we use in our outdoor spaces. Will you need to spend some money? Yes, but certainly not what this one large company suggests you do! Now go explore your local alleyways for treasures.
What are your thoughts on this? Is it a good thing that the big companies are supplying these items? Drop me a note!