I’m lucky enough to have a large green opposite my house, and most of the homes facing it are on cul de sacs, so it’s safe and accessible as well as attractive to children of all ages. As an outdoor play advocate (the hands on type) I’m often out on the Green with my own children, their friends and any others who happen upon us. During the spring and summer months, the Green is well used; it’s rare to find even an hour when there aren’t children bike riding, tree climbing, scooting, batting, bowling, poking things with sticks or just generally hanging out. It sounds idyllic, doesn’t’ it? But with the exception of Hallowe’en and carol singing, the children disappear once the sun drops over the horizon, which in autumn and winter, it does depressingly early.
My premise is: outdoor play is good for children, no matter what the weather or the light level.
So a few years ago, I started an After School, After Dark outdoor play club. There's a much longer post about the club here: http://www.playlearninglife.org.uk/resources.asp?item=34 but here are a few of the things we did at After Dark club:
Nerf gun battles on the Green
Testing out the play equipment at the park
Going on night hikes
Having a fire and cooking on it
Ball games with light up or audible footballs and tennis balls
Building dark dens
Using a whole range of glow in the dark and light up items
Exploring the woodland with head torches
Photography experiments (not exactly successful!)
My advice to anyone thinking about starting an After Dark play club is: do it! It’s great fun and is undoubtedly encouraging active, noisy, innovative play at a time of year when it’s very easy to slouch in front of a screen after school. The clocks don’t go forward for another two months, so if you haven’t done it before, why not get out there in the dark with your own after school group - or your own children and their pals? A pack of baby wipes and a head torch are all you really need… have fun!