“I mean, public schools have never exactly been a bastions of freedom, and kids, like all humans, love freedom.”
“I mean, public schools have never exactly been a bastions of freedom, and kids, like all humans, love freedom.”
The rise of materialism, the decline of personal agency.
Probably the best article on children’s play this decade.
KIND THINKER OUT IN THE WORLD
Kind thinker, out in
the world, away
from the white towers;
down by the riv’r.
Forthright, flexible and firm —
the three frees.
Living, in the realm
of the possible:
not ‘they should’, only
‘well, maybe we can…’
Else we forget, the
value of play
and the value of
his playful life.
10:26 AM, Thursday, June 12, 2014, revised 2:02 PM Friday, September 5, 2014 , and again so the scansion is better Tuesday, September 9, 2014, 2:04 PM.
A fitting obituary is here:
David has kindly given me permission to share his list of media coverage of what I have labelled ‘play/child-related issues’.
The list is a partial one, as he explains below. He says:
“Interesting research fact: There have been more than 50 articles, news reports, and radio pieces in mainstream media (New York Times, Slate.com, Washington Post, NPR, KQED, ABC News, etc.) in the United States on children’s play since the beginning of 2014.”
“So right now I’ve collected data on the 50+ media references since start of 2014. I’m in the process of going back year-by-year over the past 5 years to see if 2014 does indeed stand out as having a significantly higher number of ‘mainstream media’ (broadcast, print, web) discussions of play. I can easily provide you the 50+ references for 2014 with date, publication, url, title, etc., it’s all in a Microsoft Word doc.”
“I am … interested in looking at things from a different perspective, ie., is there a potentially larger social-cultural shift occurring in America that is either allowing or actively encouraging this sort of mainstream media coverage to happen? In other words, why now? Why these particular stories? What does this say, if anything, about American society in 2014?”
My own cynical view is that this media kerfuffle does not, of itself, signal a change in US (or UK) society. I wish it did. Nevertheless, if nothing else the covering is cheering, and may inspire. Feel free to use the list anyway you wish.
Please contact David directly if you have any questions or requests. For my part I will update this item whenever I can (not guaranteeing!).
DAVID’S LIST ( as of MONDAY, AUGUST 11, 2014)
The Overprotected Kid
The Atlantic, March 19, 2014
Why Free Play is the Best Summer School
The Atlantic, June 20, 2014
Recess Without Rules
The Atlantic, January 28, 2014
Inside a European Adventure Playground
The Atlantic, March 19, 2014
How Finland Keeps Kids Focused Through Free Play
The Atlantic, June 30, 2014
Kids These Days: Growing Up Too Fast or Never At All?
National Public Radio, March 20, 2014
Where the Wild Things Play
National Public Radio, August 4, 2014
Play Doesn’t End With Childhood: Why Adults Need Recess Too
National Public Radio, August 6, 2014
Scientists Say Child’s Play Helps Build a Better Brain
National Public Radio, August 6, 2014
When Kids Start Playing to Win
National Public Radio, August 5, 2014
What Kids Can Learn From a Water Balloon Fight
National Public Radio, June 25, 2014
For Kids With Special Needs, More Places to Play
National Public Radio, August 27, 2013
Kids Need More Structured Play Time, Not Less
New York Times, May 1, 2014
All Children Should be Delinquents
New York Times, July 12, 2014
Mom Faces Felony Charge for Letting Girl Play in Park
ABC News, July 28, 2014
Play for Children: Form and Freedom
Huffington Post, July 11, 2014
If Children are Learning, Then Let Them Play
Huffington Post, November 1, 2013
Dad Charged With Endangerment After Son Skips Church to Go Play
Huffington Post, June 30, 2014
Stressed Out in America: Five Reason to Let Your Kids Play
Huffington Post, February 28, 2014
Banish the Playdate
Huffington Post, July 24, 2014
Best Type of Play? Let Kids do What They Want
NBC News, 9News Colorado, August 6, 2014
How Play Wires Kids’ Brains for Social and Academic Success
KQED California, August 7, 2014
Let ‘Em Out! The Many Benefits of Outdoor Play in Kindergarten
KQED California, July 23, 2014
A Land Where Kids Roam Free
KQED California, July 18, 2014
Can Free Play Prevent Depression and Anxiety in Kids?
KQED California, June 29, 2014
Cities Want Young Families to Play and Stay
Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2014
Playing Children, Out of Sight and Mind
New York Daily News, August 4, 2014
Visiting Lecturer Says Play is Effective Learning Tool
Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 1, 2014
In This Era of Helicopter Parenting, Letting Your Child Play is a Crime
Charleston City Paper, July 23, 2014
Play: The Work of a Child
Green Bay Press Gazette, July 12, 2014
The Best Toy for a Kid on a Plane is Not an iPad
ABC News, July 23, 2014
Send the Kids Outside to Play: Study
Chicago Tribune, July 17, 2014
Even Playing Dress-Up Teaches Children How to Handle Emotions
Springfield News Leader, July 11, 2014
Letting Imagination Win
Washington Post, August 8, 2014
Ten Ways to Fix the Mess That is Kindergarten
Washington Post, August 7, 2014
Why So Many Kids Can’t Sit Still in School Today
Washington Post, July 8, 2014
Are We Overprotecting Our Kids?
Katie Couric Show, July 9, 2014
Should Parents Let Their Kids Take More Risks?
PBS NewsHour, May 9, 2014
Does Overprotecting Children Put Them at Risk?
CBS News, March 20, 2014
Let Kids Run Wild in the Woods
Slate.com, May 2014
What Playfulness Can Do For You
Boston Globe, July 20, 2014
How the American Playground was Born in Boston
Boston Globe, March 28, 2014
A Parklet Rises in Boston
Boston Globe, July 14, 2014
Help Kids’ Imaginations Soar
Miami Herald, July 13, 2014
For July, Let Kids be Kids
Columbia Daily Tribune, July 13, 2014
The Cognitive Benefits of Play: Effects on the Learning Brain
7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders
Forbes.com, January 16, 2014
Too Much Too Soon: Why Children Should Spend More Time Playing and Start School Later
Forbes.com, January 30, 2014
Why Playful Learning is the Key to Prosperity
Forbes.com, April 10, 2014
Mom Arrested After Letting 7-Year-Old Son Walk to Park by Himself
KTLA News, July 31, 2014
“For my street – and the others who have shared their experiences – new and rich connections have grown from sharing time and fun on the street during playing out sessions. And they have changed the way I feel about living here for the better.”
We know more about regenerating a rainforest or a prairie than we do about regenerating the public realm.
We really need to get out more.
And we really need to study more.
PlayingOut, is one neccesary, but—of course—of itself, insufficient condition for this regeneration of the public realm to take place. Pun placed intentionally!
Read and follow their excellent bloggery.
What follows is the (obviously) unofficial view of a senior police officer on the subject of ASBOs, ABCs and other legal attempts to control the nuisance of children.
The officer is commenting on a report, which you can read by following the link below.
The officer said:
“I am writing in a non official capacity – my role is that of *** in ***
If I can take the opportunity to comment on your ABC report. I thought it
was spot on and I will ensure it will be sent to my officers responsible for
delivering and working with those who deliver ABCs.
I do see a use for ABCs but as you point out, when the system is vague
and threatening it does nothing to inspire me that this is a tool that will
be of any merit or worth.
Surely children who may be experiencing problems in their lives require
support and should not be growing up in an authoritarian environment?
Thank you for a thought provoking report.”
The report he or she is commenting on is this one:
Report re: The Compatibility of Acceptable Behaviour Contracts with
Article 6.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights
By Jan Cosgrove and Matthew Cosgrove
Have any of our noble play-related university lecturers done any work in this area? I would love to see it.
You can find out more about FPFC here:
I hope there will be more tributes to Perry.
A small personal note: on learning that I would be celebrating my 50th birthday on my own, having recently isolated myself in what Bob called my ‘cave’ in the Peak District, he came over with presents: pertinently, a copy of ‘A Clockwork Orange’.
Now, please read Adrian’s fine words.
Superb piece by Steve, that starts to rediscover and re-article the core purpose of the AP.
A must read for playwork, policy makers, children’s services, etc.
Excellent blog by the wise Mr Chown. Sample quotes:
“20 years on I still see signs of children playing out, unnoticed by adults. Surveys and questionnaires provide only a partial picture of children’s independent mobility. We need more direct observation and engagement with children and families in their own neighbourhoods, not just in schools, if we are to create policies to support children playing out and to measure their success.”
“‘We have given up haunting the places where children play, we no longer have eyes for their games, and not noticing them suppose they have vanished’. Children’s Games in Street and Playground – Iona and Peter Opie.”
“When the girls came outside, the boys chased the girls chased the boys, wildly, around and around our outdoor space, all flushed and breathing hard, chasing without catching, everyone protecting everyone.”
The way he did it, honestly sharing his opinion, not adding any judgment,and the playful shuttle diplomacy he practiced, is pure playwork.
Shame that many playworkers don’t do it like this.
This is either because they aren’t allowed to, or they haven’t been shown, or, probably, they haven’t been allowed to learn how to.
This is a blog about reflective practice, which like Western civilisation, I think would be a very good thing.
I’m quoting Gandhi, who was asked what he thought of Western civilisation, as he stepped off the boat at Southampton wrapped in a sheet, having been a lawyer in South Africa. He replied: “I think it would be a very good idea.”
I’m suggesting that a lot of what passes for reflective practice is nothing of the sort, and yet it so easily could be.
Playworkers make notes in diaries, they keep records. They take photos, to attempt to present their work to others. Some keep journals, some turn their journals into whole books, like m’esteemed colleague Eduardo Nuttall. Some write whole books, based on the work of a lifetime, or at least a significant chunk of it, stuffed with observation and reflection – I’m thinking of luminaries like Perry Else and Saint Bob himself (no offence). Some blog, like moi, and Joel, and Lily and many others. Some don’t do any of that, but they do think, and ponder, and talk about stuff down the pub or over a grotty cup of bad teabag tea in a hut.
But those honourable exceptions aside, often what passes for ‘reflective practice’ is nothing more than a few scrappy notes in an ‘incident book’ or an ‘office diary’, grudgingly scribbled as you rush to go home. Why do we need to write stuff up, we mutter. What’s the point?
Easy for me to criticise, but what am I doing about it?
Good and fair question. I’m currently developing what I hope will be a new and improved approach to playwork reflective practice. I have started by distinguishing three aspects of the thing I’m pointing at – avoiding using the term ‘reflective’ or ‘practice’ to avoid association with existing approaches, recognising that this may result in the usage of clumsy neologism, for which I apologise.
These three aspects are:
documentation – the recording of numbers and names and other details, as required by Caesar. “Render unto Caesar that which is Ceasar’s” said a Jewish prophet, and in our context that means: keep the records that your employer requires, for the good reasons that they require it. Chief among those reasons is, most likely, the keeping of funders happy.
promotion – the gathering of photos, and stories, etcetera, for reasons often confused with the above, to wit: to be able – at AGM or conference, or on telly or radio, or in print, be it press, or exhibition – to tell people what you do and why you do it and why it is deserving of their support, financing or involvement, be that as volunteer, worker or committee member or officer.
journaling – the writing of a personal and private journal of your personal reflective practice. By which I mean recording some of what you observed and thinking about it, and writing down some of your thoughts, and relating them to your work, presumably with the intention of improvement – the making something better. I’m referring to a thing my erstwhile chums in management consultancy call ‘change management’.
(I’m not interested in ‘change management’, I’m interested in ‘improvement management’, which is, admittedly, a subset of change management, but is much harder. Given that change is happening all the time, the real trick is to detect and amplify the beneficial things, while avoiding the bad things and hoping they’ll go away. I say this because if we focus on the bad things, everybody gets upset and the good things get neglected – better to focus on making the already good a little bit better, which is nice and not too challenging for any of us, is it not?)
Anyway, a personal and private journal. Can’t be done in the office dairy because you can’t be yourself in the glare of your office spotlight. What will they think if I write that? I can’t write that, so I don’t, and so I don’t think about it either, which means that I’m self-censoring. Not a good start. How can I reflect on the unthought and unwritten? Reflection is personal – what do I think about what happened? Not what do the Playwork Principles tell us to think (our very own PCness), nor what my boss wants me to think or do, nor what my mates or colleagues think, or want me to think. And, if it is personal it must be private, initially at least. I can always edit juicy bits for public consumption as part of our promotion or as an extension documentation later.
Hope all that helps. I’ll be piloting this approach soon, and I’ll let you know how it goes, if you’re interested.
This particular peak
Onwards and upwards to the top of this particular peak, which is the consideration of these words:
“A thousand mountain ranges separate the one who reflects from the one who is truly present.”
We don’t know who said this, the only reference we have is ‘Zen saying’.
M’esteemed colleague, Mr Joel Seath, has written about being truly present as a playworker. Bearing witness to the play of children, as our great play theorist* Gordon Sturrock, has it. He doesn’t blog, so you can’t read him online. Joel does blog, here:
What do we mean by being present, by witnessing?
Ben Tawil has a wonderful story about not interfering in play:
A teenaged boy is contemplating a leap from a high tower on an adventure playground. Ben, from a distance, is contemplating the situation. If the boy makes the jump, he will massively injure himself, that much is certain.
You’ll have to ask Ben if you need to know what happened. If you have ever been present, witnessing, you’ll know why you don’t need to know what happened. Of course you want to know what happened, as did I. I’ll ask him, and he might give me his version of the tale, which I can share here.
I know I’m being annoying and obscure: I can’t help it. I don’t have the time or patience to write a longer explanation or a shorter one for that matter•. In any case, this Zen stuff is not about Western-style explanation, it is about Eastern-style contemplation.
And contemplation is another word for reflection.
When I hear the word, I reach for my gun
Now pay attention, dear reader••, as I pick up my Zen gun and shoot myself in my metaphorical foot, by essaying that very Western sin – explaining the unexplainable. I may amuse.
So when we say: “A thousand mountain ranges separate the one who reflects from the one who is truly present.” I think we are saying that reflection is impossible if you have not been present, meaning that if you have not been present in the moment, living it, being there, witnessing everything that is going on, around you and inside you, outside of you and inside your head and your heart. Me, I don’t do that often, and I don’t do it often enough, not by a long chalk. I’m just saying that if you weren’t there, you cannot speak of it, can you?
So I offer you this: the key to reflective practice – key in the sense of opening the door – is being truly present.
And once the door has been opened, you may or may not choose to step through, of course – that’s up to you. And if you step through, you may fail to wander very far in the garden of reflection, but it’s a start. I’m exploring that garden myself, so I might bump into you there.
Think on, as my dad used to say.
(Which is, of course, just another way of saying do some reflection.)
Footling footnotes at the foot of the present mountain:
*we have but a few truly great theorists of play: Bob Hughes, Bashō, Gordon Sturrock, Marc Bekoff, to name but a few (boys).**
** oh, and one token girl: Judith Rich Harris.***
*** oh, alright then, one more girl: Penny Wilson
• A wise man apologised like this for going on at length – well, I won’t take more time to explain, I’ll just refer you here:
•• reader? I hope for plural.
One of the many things I find curious about the playwork field here in UK is the extent to which it ignores the world of parenting. I’m not sure why, although I have some ideas (which I won’t share now for fear of annoying my playwork chums).
I wonder how we can blithely talk about providing play opportunities and the importance of risky play and all that, when we take no notice of the family life of twelve year olds like this one? Some women playwork writers have talked about a marginalised female perspective within playwork, and I agree largely, but my point is this – are we aware enough of these phenomena? And if we are, are we doing enough to offer a safe place for girls within our play provision?
I guess my comments are aimed more at the rufty-tufty adventure end of the provision – after-school childcare schemes might provide more girl-friendly spaces. Perhaps. And it’s not just about girls: boys have similar pressures, though they tend to act out in different ways, perhaps.
I’m not saying this to be contentious, I’m just saying that consideration of these questions might lead to us modifying some of our ‘offerings’, as the jargon has it.
It was an evening last week when I learned that my Tween, a very sensitive and empathic girl, is chatting with a friend who is, at the same time over the phone with another friend escorting the local police searching for another (fourth) friend suspected of trying to commit suicide, per her FB.
In case you’ve lost me, this is the situation: My kid is sitting on her bed trembling and crying, while I am staring at her I-pad unbelievably, chat lines running extremely fast saying: “Diane is not at the living room… wait, looking for her at the kitchen…not there! Perhaps she already did it! Wait, the police is entering the bathroom… Here she is! She is alive! She tried to kill herself!” Etc.
Once I was sure that Diane (which my daughter is not familiar with) is ok, and that her parents are aware of what’s happening in…
View original post 266 more words
Lots of wisdom in this blog. It’s also hilarious.
Thanks to Cath Prisk for alerting me to it, I’m doing a bit of e-housekeeping while I listen to Diane Abbott arguing with Hezza wondering which one is more annoying, and I just now found her email from two months ago.
Thank you to Morgan for sharing this quote:
“I am of course employed as a leader, but on an adventure playground this is hardly the same as the accepted idea of a leader and organizer who works, as it were, from the outside. Rather, mine is a function which arises within the actual framework of the playground where I am in a position to give the children every opportunity of putting their plans into practice. This initiative must come from the children themselves and when the necessary materials are to be had these give the children the inspiration for play. I cannot, and indeed will not, teach the children anything. I am able to give them my support in their creative play and work, and thus help them in developing those talents and abilities which are often suppressed at home and at school. I consider it most important that the leader not appear too clever but that he remain at the same experimental stage as the children. In this way the initiative is left, to a great extent, with the children themselves and it is thus far easier to avoid serious intrusion into their fantasy world.”
from John Bertelsen’s “Early Experience from Emdrup” in Adventure Playgrounds,p.20-1.
Now, note the word: ‘arises’.
Something that arises is something that is emergent.
He is not saying his role is mandated by his employer, nor is it subservient to, or defined by, his ‘customers’. Rather, it is, from my complexity perspective – an emergent phenomenon within the playspace.
Which brings me right back to my presentation in 1997 at PlayEd: ”Designing PossibilitySpaces – the key task for playwork“. It is this emergent quality of the playspace, which is not a simple linear result of the staff and the physical environment, that determines and creates the playspace. Yes, it is circular. And yes, it is emergent from many interactions between many humans – mainly the children with each other, but also with adults.
(Author’s note: I’ve added single quotes around the phrase ‘the child’, just like that. I did this just now: Thursday, April 18, 2013 14:27. The reason being that I wanted to clarify that I am focussing on the concept we point to when we use the phrase, and I am indebted to Morgan for pointing up what I was doing. I was taking for granted that my audience would know what I meant, which is always dangerous. Like Morgan, I wince when ever I encounter the idealised child in print.)
Yet we continue to talk about children in the singular. Playwork is not about ‘the child’. As I have said before, and been mightily misunderstood and majorly castigated for: playwork is not about helping children. Playwork is about providing playspaces (a term that needs to be defined, but not now, but see below*) for children – PLURAL, not helping ‘the child’. SINGULAR.
Playwork is not about ‘the child’. Leave that bogus concern to social services, who have discarded all they knew about families as interactive systems in favour of a tabloid-driven heroic rescue mentality.
Playwork is about children en masse. Groups of children. Large numbers of children.
If we focus on individual children and we neglect to focus on the playspace*, – the culture being continuously recreated autopoietically, the resulting emergent behaviour of the denizens en masse – then we stop doing playwork and become rescuers.
The role of the playworker
is an emergent responsiveness
to the playspace.
Thanks again Morgan, for sharing that Bertelsenic nugget. More please.
“I told a friend today that it’s time to take a stand. Here is that stand.
“I have been an advocate for, and more importantly a community worker in Active Play for quite a few years now, and have worked in a number of capacities. Because of that, I have had the opportunity to watch our advocacy develop in the context of physical education, sports performance, the so called “obesity crisis”, and the push for academic “excellence”.”
“During this time, there have been herculean efforts made to justify ”moderate to vigorous physical activity” for kids and teens in terms of things like “productivity”, “test scores”, and “health”. All you have to do is look at the terminology. It is clinical and measurable. That’s what I keep having to justify play against – clinical and measurable. I will submit to you during this article that play can’t compete with measurable on it’s turf, but measurable is no match for LIVING.”
Go read it!