Childhood has changed. Children haven’t.
Genetically speaking, we are the same creatures that roamed the savannahs hunting and gathering, inventing tools and rituals and structures to make our lives a bit easier.
Personally and as a society, we still need and want this adventurous discovering, experimenting and problem solving.
PLAYbynature is dedicated to creating this consciousness across the many levels of childcare responsibility that make up our “village” here in Toronto, by working with parents, schools, daycares, after-school clubs, municipalities, school boards, regional authorities and even provincial and national governments. Play needs to be endorsed at the policy level, planned for and provided for and the first step is education.
The importance of freely chosen self-directed play is not fully grasped by many adults, who are themselves play-deprived in their busy lives. This lack of awareness is among the most serious challenges to the right to play (U.N. General Comment on Article 31). Good play provision requires that adults appreciate the importance of children’s developing agency and are willing to work to give it room to develop and grow.
The child’s right to play is first and foremost a developmental need – a biological drive. Many genetic capacities are triggered into development by actions. Play satisfies an inner biological urge to find the experiences that will allow the child to come into being as a unique person with a unique contribution to make.
Therefore the quality and tone of play supervision are very important. While protecting and providing safety, there must be an atmosphere of permission that gives children free access to their impulses. If the playground is flooded with instructions and prohibitions, the imagination withdraws.
In such situations, some children may naturally assert their own agency by resisting, while others may withdraw from active play. Neither scenario is ideal from a developmental perspective although the quieter children may be identified as “good”. Much behaviour from children that is characterized as “problematic” in schools or other institutions is actually a very natural assertion of free will or agency in the face of too many restrictions.
Play is much more than working off excessive energy. It is a mysterious process that neither teachers nor parents can fully observe, only intuit and respect. No one can see the oak tree in the acorn, but we know that, given the right soil and nurturance, it is there. In play supervision we understand that we don’t fully know our children, and we remain curious and open to possibilities. Playwork operates on this foundation.
The Playwork Principles were developed in England, where the profession of playwork has been highly developed and refined over the last 50 years. In the U.K., you can get community college certification in playwork, if you want to work with children in various play settings and you can work your way up to a PhD in playwork, if you want to work in policy and research.
At Playbynature, we are committed to practicing the playwork principles and teaching them. We have begun by training ourselves – seeking out the experts through their published literature and travel to their places, conferences, and workshops, through on-line training with POP UP Adventure Play (U.K.). Recently, in March 2014, we became the first Canadians trained in the internationally recognized OPAL program.
Every volunteer working at one of our POP UP Adventure Playgrounds will have a 3-hour basic introduction to playwork principles. As we engage with communities to extend the POP UP program into other agencies and after-school programs, we will be offering longer trainings and workshops.
If you would like to learn more about the Playwork Principles, contact us.
If you would like to support our advocacy for play and playwork, show your support by liking the Playwork Principles on Facebook:Playbynature.