During this half term happy families visit the seaside town where I live. Children explore the beach and run and skip along the prom. At the skate park older children show off their moves, while younger ones watch and dream of being able to perform such tricks. Everyone is free to decide how to follow their inclinations and they learn through their experience.
This shouldn’t be confined to holiday times. We need to ensure that young people have the space to perfect their skills and find their strengths. Play is important and not just as a way to relax and have fun. Play is the mind at work, a first hand effort to conquer the world we find ourselves in.
While being taught established knowledge is vital, without the bedrock of self- development through play this 2nd hand knowledge sits on shifting sands rather than a firm foundation. The busy 24/7 world that adults have created has often meant that a child’s world of ambling, playful exploration gets short-circuited to meet adult expectations of life in the fast lane. Independence is sacrificed for speed and convenience reducing play to occasional gap and pre planned holiday times.
This is not enough and children show their discontent in being derailed from their developmental imperative of play and exploration by low mood, inattention, non – compliance and behaviour problems. Children who are not flourishing because of play starvation don’t mean to be difficult any more than a food hungry child is unreasonable in wanting food. We need to make space for play if we want our children to grow up capable, resilient and determined.