When the challenge of the climber or the commotion on the swings is too much, where is there to go to be alone or with a trusted friend or fellow temporary outcast?
Where can I observe my next challenge? Quiet spaces scaled to child size all provide wayside rests.
- Jim Greenman
Cubbies, forts, shelters or dens - it doesn't matter what you call them. It just matters that children have the chance to make their own.
In a preschool where children are free to play outside all day if their hearts so desire, it is important to provide them with child-sized spaces to watch, to wonder and to retreat.
It isn't hard or expensive to meet this need. Our cubbies aren't what you would call salubrious: sometimes our outdoors can look like a tent city or junk yard to an adult eye!
Here are a few ideas that would suit the preschool playground or the backyard:
1. There is the handy old staple: the big box cubby
2. Sun Shelters give you an easy, instant cubby
I picked this one up at a garage sale for $5:
3. A couple of old sheets or mosquito nets
Peg them up and you are good to go! Mosquito nets give children a sense of seclusion, but they are still in view so we can see what is going on:
Cubby play is different to the play observed in the rest of the large, open active area. It gives children a sense of belonging, offers emotional security and comfort and promotes child initiated pretend play.
A cubby within a cubby provides a sense of social intimacy and a place to recharge batteries:
4. A neighbourhood of cubbies
5. Cubbies created by the kids
Forts and lean-to's, milk crate walls and cardboard castles. The outdoors is a place for children to build shelters and barricades. If we don't have a place for children to call their own chances are they will build one themselves:.
A healthy supply of loose parts that are easily accessible to the children such as planks, sheets, rope, crates and tyres it is possible to encourage construction with or without tools:
Skeletal structures such as platforms, A frames, or this slide (which incidentally is rarely used for actual sliding!) are a base children can add to if other loose parts are available.
6. Natural Cubbies
The challenges involved in building a cubby from found natural materials provide a wealth of learning experiences that can cover all developmental areas:
They also provide a way of connecting young children to the natural environment:
And then there is the lesser-known moving cubby!
If you are not already all cubbied-out, here are some of my other posts about cubby houses: