Sense of belonging

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Simple activities can help to make children feel a club is really theirs, as Miranda Walker explains All playworkers hope that children have a fantastic time at their clubs.

Simple activities can help to make children feel a club is really theirs, as Miranda Walker explains

All playworkers hope that children have a fantastic time at their clubs.

Some children choose to come just for fun, but for many the reality is that they have no option - they have to attend because their parent or carer is at work or in education.

Playworkers can do a lot to promote all the children's sense of membership to their club. Children can feel that they belong to and are part of a club, just as they belong to and are part of their families, so avoiding the feeling that the club is simply a place that they have to be when their parents can't look after them.

One of the best ways to achieve this is to involve children in the club's workings, consulting with children on the issues that affect them, regularly giving them opportunities to decide what happens at their club.

Activities, procedures and rules can all be up for discussion. Once consultation is in place the following strategies can also be helpful: MEMBERS OF A CLUB

When new children are booked into the club, make a point of using positive language. Talk about 'joining' the club rather than referring to 'coming along'. It can be beneficial to give new children a membership pack to mark their joining - at my club we developed a wallet that contained a membership card, club badge and stickers featuring our logo.

Club logos or symbols can help clubs to establish an identity, something that everyone can recognise as representing them as a group. If you don't have one, why not involve the children in creating a design? If a design already exists, consider updating it in some way in consultation with the children: you could change its colours, or choose a different font for the club's name perhaps.

The children may like to think of a statement that sums up the club for them, which can be used as a strap line, such as 'A fun place to be' or 'Where you can meet friends and relax'.

You could relaunch the logo, involving the members in its display. Children could make a club flag with fabric paints or make a banner for the wall.

Some clubs have their own T-shirts or baseball caps printed for children to wear, while others like to encourage children to change into their own clothes after school. This can be particularly effective if you have children from several schools attending your setting, breaking down visual barriers as everyone sheds their different uniforms.

ALL TOGETHER NOW

Creating a club song to sing or chant together is great fun! It's possible to do it even without musically talented adults or children.

Children can enjoy changing the lyrics of a song they all know - something like 'In My Liverpool Home' could become 'In Our Out of School Club'. Or perhaps your group will choose a current chart topper. Whatever the tune, singing about aspects of the club that the children enjoy can be very motivating, and is certainly recommended on bus trips!

My setting has a simple club song that was written by the children. It begins: 'If you want to have fun, Playtime is the place to come, 'Cos it's really cool, And there's loads to do.

You can make new friends, And play cool games, And there's a prize bin, Full of things you can win!'

DECORATION DESIGNS

Decoration is a difficult issue for many clubs since most do not own their premises. However, whenever possible it is helpful to involve children in the design of their environment, even if displaying a few of their pictures on a notice board is the most that you can do.

Just as an adult moving into a new home might like to paint walls in their favourite colours and display their photos to put their own stamp on a place and make it feel they belong, so decor can really help children to develop a sense of ownership of their space, promoting their levels of comfort within it.

Naturally, the more comfortable children are, the better it is.

Miranda Walker is a playwork trainer who owns Playtime out-of-school club in Cullompton, Devon

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