Sunday, June 14, 2009

Secret Places that Children Play

I am excited about the articles I have been reading concerning play. I hope to distill some of the key points of the articles for readers and point you in the direction of these articles.

It seems every article tries to define this illusive concept. The following definition is from an article from the Alliance for Childhood: Play is a set of behaviors that are freely chosen, personally directed, and intrinsically motivated. The full article, "A Playwork Primer" will be on the Bringing Up Baby website,

The article describes how secret places that children play are vanishing from their lives. Especially in cities, contrived and rigid playgrounds are the norm and play spaces where children can use their imagination, where risk taking and safety are in balance, and where children of many ages play; are disappearing from the neighborhoods.

The author describes adult designed playgrounds as being empty of playing children but areas of weeds and trees and loose debris as being a magnet for them. Through the author's observations we learn that children choose to play where they can move objects and their imaginations to create play. In creative play places, children use cardboard and sticks and bits of grass and stone to build house for fairies and dragons. Other children using the same space will role play firemen and pilots, mothers and teachers, or cops and robbers. Children will challenge themselves physically and intellectually in play spaces like this. This play can last for hours and hours and no child who has the opportunity and space to create their own play is ever "bored".

Adults who were asked to describe their favorite summer memories of childhood do not describe the summer camps or baseball or swimming lessons. They describe those times when they crawled through the tall grass to find a sheltered and secret place where they wove complex stories of challenge, beauty, and intrigue. Is there a place and time for your child to create his own play this summer?

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