Play and relationship development are the hallmarks of the culture of childhood. As children play together we witness their joys, frustrations, anxieties and intellect. We observe their openness and flexibility of thought. We notice their ingenuity and resourcefulness.
Piaget, a Swiss educator and philosopher, had it right when he said,
"If you want to be creative, stay in part a child, with the creativity and invention that characterizes children before they are deformed by adult society."
It is vital that we commit to protecting the culture of childhood. This does not mean protecting children from risk, failure or disappointment but rather giving them the space and freedom to be unfettered by our adult intentions, goals, perspectives and fears.
I am reminded of this each time the Kindergarten hikes into the Forest and I watch groups of children build structures with campfires burning outside. They scale banks and wade through water deep in the imaginative play that they have constructed with their peers.
Research has shown repeatedly that creativity and a spirit of innovation flows from play. Instead of nurturing and respecting childhood, our culture often desecrates it by letting the adult world seep in too early and quickly. It is hard to tap the imagination if there is a bombardment of visuals and sounds fighting for air time in our inner worlds.
Our school sponsored a forum two weeks aga at Binford Middle School in the Fan. The intention of the forum was to consider the state of the child in our city of Richmond. The panel spoke on so many important and relative things regarding education, community, safety and health. It is overwhelming to hear that so many of our children's basic needs are not being met each day. I experienced this first hand when I taught at a public schools in our city's East end. We would wonder how to teach a child that had spent the night sleeping in a car.
I think that the piece that Ben Mardell and Lella Gandini brought to the forum was the recognition that there are basic needs of children that are essential to securing this culture of childhood that feeds their soul and their mind. Children need to be heard and their thoughts considered and of course they need to have some time each day to play and connect with their peers. This basic need is not dictated by zip code. It affects all cultures, all races and all socioeconomic levels. Play is not present in the lives of our children globally.
The International Play Association lobbies around the world for a child's right to play and disconnect for a period from the realities and responsibilities of their lives. I found the following information on their website.
The International Play Association (IPA) has long been concerned about the play rights of children experiencing difficult circumstances or challenging environments. Too many of the world’s children face huge barriers in their everyday environments which mean that they have to snatch their chances to play whenever and wherever they can – and sometimes in considerable danger. In situations of crisis, the disadvantages (such as stress, hampered physical and emotional development, feelings of lack of control, loss of trust, etc.) steadily multiply if children lack everyday opportunities for play.