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Getting Protective Parents Onboard.


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We are a pre school setting, opening 5 mornings a week in a school hall. We have our own garden and use of a school field with natural areas.

 

My problem is with parents. We have recently been playing in an enormous puddle on the field after heavy rain. Obviously our children have been soaking wet. This shouldn't be a problem as we ask all children to be provided with spare clothes and most do.For the others we have plenty of spares in our owen store. But there have been mutterings from several parents.

 

Then today we had a letter from one parent saying that although she didn't mind her daughter getting wet and muddy in puddles she "feels it is excessive for the children to go out at all in adverse weather conditions - definitely not for half an hour"

 

She has checked with school and says that their policy is staying indoors during wet playtimes (we are an independent group who hire the school hall). Then she says that her daughter still has a cold and sore throat at the moment.

 

So what to do. My first thought says if her daughter isn't well she shouldn't be at Playgroup but her daughter seems perfectly well and is one of the happiest children on the field with a big grin while she splashes and digs in mole hills. It is our policy to go outdoors daily whatever the weather and this parent knows this, our blurb highlights it, we actively promote wet weather clothing and all children wear wellies, we have a big display about it.

 

We don't really want to split our staff to have some children stay inside (we did this recently and had parents turning up with children without wellies saying "Oh, they don't want to go outside today") The only solution I can come up with so far is to tell this parent that she is welcome to drop her daughter off at Playgroup after 9.30 on days when the weather is bad.

 

Any advice would be welcomed before I write back to her.

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Could you say to her that we can all be a bit worried about play outside before we have experience of it and ask her to come in and see for herself how happy her child is and what a positive thing it is for her to take part?

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Sorry to sound silly but by dropping her off after 9:30 does that mean you only go outside before that?

 

I would do as Melba says and invite her in to see how much fun her daughter has and the benefits to her learning

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Sorry to sound silly but by dropping her off after 9:30 does that mean you only go outside before that?

 

 

No, but we always go out on the field first thing, after that it's free flow between inside and our garden. It's the field bit that this parent has problems with.

 

Unfortunately she works so she drops off then rushes off and grandparents pick up. I get the impression that this parent doesn't really like our Playgroup and is only using us because we are on school premises and feed into the school and she wants her daughter to make some friends before she starts school.

 

She's quite protective and every day tells us that she didn't sleep very well, or she has a cold or she's a bit 'fridayish' (!) It sounds daft but from comments she has made I think she's slightly disappointed that her daughter is so obviously happy with the group when she isn't, and the only reason she hasn't left is because her daughter loves coming.

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I think you get parents like that everywhere! We had a parent who was very concerned about her child's speech, we spent months getting support from senco etc. then when we finally got a hearing test booked she took her out of playgroup! She is down to come back in september when she gets funding

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It's just that you start to doubt yourself. If a parent really disagrees with something fundamental that we do, who gives? On the one hand we always try to work with parents because obviously it's better all round to have parents onside, but 'Outside' is something that we believe in big time.

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Have the parents had plenty of information (referring to appropriate theorists) about the positive benefits of the sort of outdoor experiences your setting is providing? Are there lots of photographic displays/learning walls which show what children have experienced/learnt through exploring outside?

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Yes, all the parents have had a letter and we have a big display and all our bumph refers to it. She does say that she doesn't have a problem with her daughter getting wet and muddy in puddles just doesn't want her going out in the rain or other adverse weather conditions.

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There are plenty of photos of her in the rain and puddles in her Learning Journey.

 

Like I say, I begin to doubt myself, if a parent insists that her child isn't allowed out in the rain do we have to split our staff? What if she is the only child and I have to leave two members of staff inside with two staff outside with potentially 23 children... we just can't do it.

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Hi a lot of parents fears, concerns are often based on their life experiences, so an opportunity to see her daughter in action as it were might be a good idea. However if mum is unable to do this could you video her daughter and let her take it home to view. I feel working with parents whatever our own thoughts, beliefs, is the way forward with this. Good luck:)

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Put a questionnaire out to parents asking what toys they liked to play with when they were little, places they remember enjoying, things they loved to do. I bet most of them played out getting muddy in the rain, making mud pies, climbing trees and looking for bugs, I think a lot of people forget they were children themselves once and alot of them have been sucked into the anti-bac age!

I'd also take the concerns seriously though, I loved my children being outdoors but I didnt insist they played out every day and I'm glad they arent in EY or school anymore, we know we have the children's best interests at heart but I sometimes feel we're taking over and persuading parents to go along with us by brandishing policies at them.

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Put a questionnaire out to parents asking what toys they liked to play with when they were little, places they remember enjoying, things they loved to do. I bet most of them played out getting muddy in the rain, making mud pies, climbing trees and looking for bugs, I think a lot of people forget they were children themselves once and alot of them have been sucked into the anti-bac age!

I'd also take the concerns seriously though, I loved my children being outdoors but I didnt insist they played out every day and I'm glad they arent in EY or school anymore, we know we have the children's best interests at heart but I sometimes feel we're taking over and persuading parents to go along with us by brandishing policies at them.

 

Yes, I'm definitely trying to work out a solution to this that's agreeable to both of us, I think this mum is an anti bac mum but it would seem more reasonable if her daughter wasn't quite so happy out there. I think mum is a bit of a hypochondriac by proxy....she seems to think that heavy rain will make her daughter ill, whereas surely the best solution is waterproof clothing (we are really going to push this with parents for this next autumn!)

 

As for brandishing policies, I know what you mean but surely parents sign up for the group that matches their beliefs? She knew when she joined that we were an outdoors/embrace the mess kind of setting.

 

But in the end I'm going to have to work it through with her, offer her the solution of dropping her daughter off a little later in inclement weather, and hope that the process of talking it through, explaining why we can't let her daughter stay inside, and being willing to take her seriously counts in our favour and allows us to ease her worries and make her realise that we won't force any children to stay out when they are cold, wet and unwilling to be there.

 

Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and advice. ^_^

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Hi just another thought, could it also be that if her daughter was to get a chill or become ill then as a working mum she may have pressures from her employees, what's the quote " no such thing as bad weather" " just inappropriate clothing". Good luck with this.

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Yes, but rain doesn't cause colds, viruses and bacteria do, but I can imagine that maybe she believes that it does. We do stress appropriate clothing and all our children arrive in wellies every day now with indoor shoes that live at playgroup ('easy to put on shoes' is what we ask for.. don't get me started on converse!)

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and as a virus or bacteria is the cause of a cold or flu etc.. it is so much easier/more likely to come in contact with them inside in a confined environment than outside in the rain and an open environment, where it is harder for the bugs to spread and survive..

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The only other thing I might add is that many parents still don't see playgroups as anything but informal groups which are run by volunteers (mums generally once upon a time). They don't see these groups as being run by qualified, well informed professionals. Might this mum listen to someone she does regard as a professional? I'm just wondering if you have any contact with a health visitor who might come in and talk to parents about the positive benefits to your approach?

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Carol, that's a good idea. It hadn't really occured to me that she might not realize that we're professional educators...food for thought..... :huh: Now looking at it from another perspective and how I might feel in her position... :mellow:

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A few extra quotes to add to your armoury;

 

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. ~John Ruskin

 

Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain. ~Author Unknown

 

A rainy day is the perfect time for a walk in the woods. ~Rachel Carson

 

When I no longer thrill to the first snow of the season, I'll know I'm growing old. ~Lady Bird Johnson

 

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine. ~Anthony J. D'Angelo, The College Blue Book

 

I am sure it is a great mistake always to know enough to go in when it rains. One may keep snug and dry by such knowledge, but one misses a world of loveliness. ~Adeline Knapp

 

Good luck and I think you should try and stick to your guns.....if outdoor play is the bedrock of your settings ethos then so be it.

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Now, I'm all for out and about, and you're all absolutely right about viruses causing colds, but there has been research showing that immunity drops when shivering starts. As long as we are warm and dry, being outside is better for killing bugs, but when the waterproofing gives up and wellies only have thin socks inside, then puddle jumping CAN contribute to colds and flu.

 

And, although this might not count for under fives, who I believe aren't able to regulate their own body temperature well, but I saw on 'Bang goes the theory', that we can develop something like 'immunity' to cold. The more often we get really cold the less likely we are to get to that shivery stage.

 

I would like children's play clothes to have 3/4 length sleeves and legs to prevent them getting wet and cold. Would also like long, fleecy socks under wellies. And thick fleecy tops and light waterproof layers over the top unless its less than 5 degrees C. And at least a jumper (3/4 sleeve) for inside wear when outside temp is less than about 12 degrees C. Bugs me when children have coats fit for the Arctic and then come inside wearing nothing but long sleeved tee shirt with soggy sleeves as soon as they've washed their hands/played in the water. My place isn't that warm once the door's been open for an hour or so of free-flow.

 

Now, will someone help me down off this soapbox please?

 

Honey

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I'm with you on this one Honey. and I'd like to add that I want all in one rain suits with built in waterproof feet, like a waterproof babygrow so even when wellies fill up, socks stay dry.

 

And I agree about the shivering too. We don't keep our kids out when they really start to get cold, when the first child comes to us and says they're cold (within reason- some kids get cold on hot days :rolleyes: ) that's when we gather them up and come in.

 

This child didn't come to Playgroup on friday and no phone call to say why, waiting to see if she turns up tomorrow..... Ah well, we're nearly full any way so if she gives up on us we can soon fill the space with someone who appreciates our ethos :D

 

And thanks for the quotes Sue, going to use some on our Facebook page.

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I'd like to join you ont he clothing soapbox Honey but as a parent.

 

Our house is never heated very much. Just the one log burner for much of the winter so we need jumpers to keep warm. Children's clothing seems to be mostly made up of long sleeved Tee shirts for the winter and short sleeved for the summer. There is very little choice amongst thicker garments which drives me mad as my daughter cannot bear more than one layer on her arms.

 

I think centrally heated houses have stopped parents buying proper warm clothing for their children so they probably just don't have it to send them to pre-school in.

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And they always arrive in cars without coats!!!!! No matter how often we say that we're going out every day :rolleyes: (I can't be doing with flimsy little raincoats on cold spring days either... bah humbug!) :angry:

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