Play Makes Us Human I: A Ludic Theory of Human Nature | Psychology Today

I’m prompted to share this by way of explanation for why I continue to be fascinated by play.

As you know, there are two audiences for my musings, largely alien to each other. That’s why I’m so niche: the Venn diagram overlap is miniscule.

This one is for Ben Taylor in particular, but really it’s for any management type who doesn’t get why this frivolous thing is so important to business.

It’s also for any play type who doesn’t think biggly enough about play.

And for the record, I’m on record, a broken record in both senses, as saying

“Through play we become human”

well before Peter Gray, who I admire (and I don’t say that often).

The needs of children #4. The most important, most overlooked one: responsibility

More wisdom from Teacher Tom:

“Even 2-year-olds step up to the responsibility of the real hammer. An adult still needs to be there at first, insisting on eye protection, reminding the child to find a safe area in which to get to work, one free of other people who might be hit or things that might get broken, and to focus her on the concept of targeting a nail (or a bottle cap: we’ve found that it’s quite satisfying to drive them into soft wood). It’s not a hard thing to do because a child with a hammer in his hand instantly becomes a calmer child, a more focused child.  A plastic hammer is a toy; a real hammer is a responsibility, children know it, and even the youngest, even the most hyperactive, are capable of taking it on.”

“Responsibility is one of those things that is either real or it doesn’t exist. There is no halfway. No amount of lecturing on responsibility will replace the real thing.  There is no way to “practice” responsibility without actually having it in your possession. If we want children to learn to be responsible, we must in fact turn over to them something that is real, and indeed, give them room to make mistakes, and that means the potential for making “wrong” choices. If there isn’t that potential, then it’s not responsibility at all: it’s a plastic hammer. And the kids know it.”

I can’t understand why MKP is so neglected. She was the first director of the NCB and author of this forgotten book (below). Tim Gill mentioned her once in a blog of his , after I enthused to him about her, he didn’t credit me — I suppose I’m not a fellow celebrity. Boohoo, woe is me. And the NCB isn’t what is used to be, I’m afraid, just another fund junkie charity business sucking up to government for contracts: a lapdog, not a guard dog. But I digress.

I commend her work to you! It was this book that, when Lesley from York Playspace introduced it to me when we ran playwork training together (thanks Lesley!),  it being far better known in the under-5s arena, that fired my realisation about why I thought a lot of playwork was soppy.

“Mia Kellmer Pringle suggests that there are four significant developmental needs:-

a. The need for love and security

b. The need for new experiences

c. The need for praise and recognition

d. The need for responsibility

The Needs of Children: A personal perspective

Front Cover
“First published in 1974, this publication highlighted the virtual revolution in children’s physical development after the second world war – changes that are increasingly relevant today. Children are taller, they mature earlier, certain diseases have been almost eliminated, and obesity is a more serious problem than malnutrition. It had been hoped that rising standards of physical health and material prosperity would reduce the incidence of low educational attainment, maladjustment and delinquency. However, it has become increasingly evident that problems of emotional, social and educational malfunctioning will not be solved by improvements in standards of living alone. This ebook offers a comprehensive review of the developmental needs of all children and the consequences for the emotional, intellectual, social and physical growth and development of children when, for one reason or another, these needs are not adequately met. It brings together insights from the many relevant fields and is a valuable resource for those wishing to know more about child development and parenthood as well as those concerned with disseminating such knowledge.”
What I saw was that playwork was satisfactory on b) and c), poor on a) and needed to be put in special measures on d), to get all Ofsted on yo’ ass.

If you’re interested, I do a little presentation on MKP’s 4 children’s needs and I have developed a simple audit tool based on her ideas.

The MKP Needs Audit is a method (in the same spirit as “First Claim’ and ‘Quality in Play’ and that new one developed by Cambridgeshire CC and John Fitzpatrick that I can’t remember the name of), for assessing the extent to which your play ‘setting’ (hate that word) is meeting all 4 of these crucial needs of children. 

It’s a holistic thing: if you aren’t meeting all 4 , it’s likely that a lot of your efforts are going to waste, or are even counter-productive. Spoilt brats are what you get if only need c) is met!
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© Arthur Battram 2002
And need a) is the reason why, whatever your staffing, and whatever your hours of opening, cannot be met by a chaneable and changing timetable. If you can only be open one night a week, OK, but choose a night and stick to it. If it’s Tuesday at 3.30 pm be there, EVERY Tuesday. Of course that is utterly obvious, so explain to me why so many play projects piss about with opening days and times?

Email me if you’d like to know more… 

Extraordinary photographs of playing children far away from adults

Glorious photos. But….

‘Play’ ?

For Bob’s sake, couldn’t you have come up with a more original title? One a tiny bit descriptive? I totally get the one word mystery title thing, but puhleeez…

How about:

Domain ?


Place ?


Far ?

Unless you were doing that ironic band name thing, you know, like The The, or The Band?


Love the photos though, love them.

On Police Scotland, data failures, and being labelled a “victim”


Superb writing.

Real issue.

Not only is it a waste of money but once these things are in place they motor along, generating ‘data’ snarfing up dosh, for ever, or until they are abruptly cut because they have become unfashionable, or they make a really big mistake, like Kids Company. Despite being audited to death, no real scrutiny takes place. I’m thinking of those Islamist hotbed academy schools in Birmingham rated excellent by Ofsted, or the paedophilia in Rotherham.

Thank you.

Let’s have a little fantasy. Suppose we could create an agency empowered to make random ‘joined up’ audits. Its agents, dressed in black with shades, would scour the internet, looking for cases like yours. Then the team would leap into action.

And do what?

That’s my question.

Originally posted on WebDevLaw blog:

There is absolutely nothing I can say which will add a meaningful contribution to the debate that has arisen following the absurd and unnecessary deaths of two people in a car crash last week in Stirling. What can anyone possibly say that will make it better?

For those readers outside Scotland, the facts are this: their car skidded off a motorway and down an embankment last Sunday night. A member of the public who witnessed the crash reported it to Police Scotland immediately. For reasons which are yet to be determined, the call was not entered into Police Scotland’s recently centralised computer systems, and therefore, the report was not sent out to local police in the area. And so those two critically injured people sat trapped in that car, down that embankment, for three days. (It seems that the driver may have died on impact, which meant that his girlfriend…

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I should co-co: Co-Lead a Team (Warning: this is essentially vitriol. Kittens are available)

“We don’t lead alone. We lead with others. The days of the ‘Great Man’ theory of Leadership – where one sole leader rules over the masses from their ivory tower, are long gone.”

Deep. These words of wisdom were leading edge when first published in Fast Company, circa, 1997; and here they are again, in HBR, this month!

“Some of us quite literally lead with another person – we co-lead a project, a team, or an organization with a peer. A study by Pearce and Sims (2002), published in Group Dynamics, found that shared leadership is a useful predictor of team effectiveness.”

Wow! Literally, wow.

It’s a BuzzwordBingo fest, made from tired corporate last century dinosaur drivel.

This is PaparazziManagement: Take a long lens photo of a happening party in a penthouse. Then tell us what’s going on behind the glass as if you have a clue.

Then, stick the prefix co- in front of a few Buzzwords. How about Co-lead? Cool. Co-ol. Co-cool!  Co-commitment. Co-co-operation. I should Co-co!

Blog 22


“The numbers are lower at the adventure playgrounds. Parents are worried about letting their children out and children are worried about going out. Regular users and those children who are dropped off and picked up are coming but there are no passers by.

Islington feels like a quieter, sadder place.”

Very well said. There is the proof, if proof were needed, that without playable streets to access our provision we cannot create a playable society

Originally posted on Islington Play CEO:

The numbers are lower at the adventure playgrounds. Parents are worried about letting their children out and children are worried about going out. Regular users and those children who are dropped off and picked up are coming but there are no passers by.

Islington feels like a quieter, sadder place.

I have been speaking to people living and working in the borough as much as I can, there is sorrow but there is also fear. One mum said she no longer feels able to let her son go to play with his friend on the local estate – an estate where there have been a number of knife attacks. Knife attacks by children on children that are not reported on the front pages because nobody died. Another mum talked about her fear when she knows her son is walking back home at 10.30pm from his class. She knows she can’t…

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