Celebrating Play

Chris_Jackie_HikingAs a child I spent an inordinate amount of time playing outdoors. Play is instrumental in my ability to develop and hone my creativity. I’m allowed to explore, experiment, build, deconstruct, and fail without judgement. It’s taken years of research and the media’s attention on the corporate ping pong table to acknowledge the value of play in innovation, health, and well-being. In 2014, I presented at UBC’s the Early Years Conference: Shaping Childhood: Factors that Matter to discuss the need to incorporate free play, observation, reflection, and experimentation into the design of children’s learning environments. I refer to the model as PORE. What we know from research is this…Play settings exercise children’s physical, social, and language skills (Brotherson, 2009; Curtis & Carter, 2003). These areas also support imagination, creativity, collaboration, and interaction with others (Johnson, Christie, & Wardle, 2005). Outdoor play settings provide children with exposure to the natural environment and physical world as well as the critical space to develop their fine and gross motor skills (Brotherson, 2009; Johnson et al., 2005).

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Children have the right to play and as a society we need to protect that right by allocating the time and space for children to engage with each other; to collaborate and communicate; to develop their physical literacy skills; and to exert that bundle of joy, energy, and spunk. Last year, I was thrilled to learn of the Canadian-based charity Playground Builders. Since 2007, they’ve built 200 playgrounds in war-torn countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Palestinian territories and have provided safe play for over 400,000 children. What I appreciate most about the organization is their focus on supporting the community through the involvement of local people who build and sustain their own playgrounds. We need society to implement and nurture these learning settings for our children as well as our community. Playgrounds are one of the first places where we learn to negotiate, compromise, and exercise peace. To learn more about their wonderful work visit Playground Builders.

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