School grounds are no longer the place for play that they used to be. Many are empty by 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon – even in good weather. A few children make use of the jungle gym for a while, but they lose interest quickly without more children and things to engage them.
School grounds are a very important social and spatial resource for children; they are, potentially, the child’s village. At present, they are under-utilized for many reasons associated with how childhood has changed in the last 20 years. Poor quality of the environment makes these places less than interesting, to be sure, but even a boring asphalt surface can be made interesting by equipment and other children to play with.
Adults who create the conditions for childhood need to address this huge deficit in children’s lives today. We need to value children’s play as more than merely “blowing off steam”. Play is learning and development time. In play, children learn what cannot be taught but needs to be experienced and they take this knowledge into the classroom.
Many positive educational outcomes have been associated with enhanced play at schools, including:
- much more inclusion across ages, abilities, gender
- much less “bullying”, fighting, or provocation
- a more settled and willing attitude in the classroom
- children who love school
If you are a busy parent, principal or teacher and want some help establishing a play community in your school, PLAYbynature wants to help you.
We have trained with the internationally recognized Outdoor Play and Learning Program, which helps schools establish a collaborative play support community, using playwork principles and minimal capital costs. We would be happy to discuss how to work with your school to bring your playground alive with imaginative play.