Friday, 31 March 2017

Play-spaces and PLAY

I have just read
"Why do architects dictate children's play so stringently?"
and it made me react....

I feel it's not so much the playspace design... but he adults surrounding the play-space that are not allowing children to explore it on their own terms...

I see children having amazing play in play-spaces... not using them as" Victorian" training gyms but real creative play that is original in how they use the equipment... Since the article states 
Playgrounds are still modelled on Victorian notions of character-building gymnastic exertion
it also states

"How often have you seen a child scolded for attempting to climb up the ramp of a playground slide, rather than descending demurely down it? Take a second glance at the objects in most playgrounds and you'll clock the extent to which they are totally prescriptive, designed to be used in a single way: a roundabout for spinning on, a swing for swinging on."

Which brings me back to my original statement, it is not about the design but about the adults that are with the children at the play-space who are unable to use their imaginations and can only see a "totally prescriptive, designed to be used in a single way" equipment. In my observations of children they have NO problem exploring the equipment in many different ways as longs as adults step back and give them space.

I have been visiting play-spaces and photographing them and observing how they are used for many years now - and seriously it is not the design that is the biggest problem, it is that there are too many adults in the play-space... it has been conquered by adults and their perception of play... Rarely do I visit a play-space where children greatly outnumber the adults... and ONLY once have I visited a play-space here in Stockholm where I have been the only adult while there are children there that are not with me... 
Weekends are the worst when parents come out en masse with their children... I have been to play spaces where there are more adults than children...!!!

Also parents are way too interested in their children being happy and seem afraid of frustration or maybe unable to distinguish frustration from sad... and therefore lift up their children and help them too much and therefore further feeding the children that they can do things before they are ready... taking away their sense of own personal achievement and the need for cheap thrills... and also taking away from the children how to learn to deal with frustration - a very important life skill.

Rules in play-spaces need to happen, but they don't have to be traditional rules e.g. up the steps and down the slide ("correct" use of equipment) - but rules that allow all to play; and the play is not exclusive where just one or two children dominate a slide as they use it for both up and down, making it impossible for others to use it... because then it is not about going up the slide is wrong, it is about not sharing the slide with others, or even being aware that others want to use it and are waiting...

 Children often need scaffolding when it comes to their social play, and discussing potential play-space rules can help with that... making sure that there is time for all the children to go up the ramp, ensuring there is no danger but still allowing for the element of risk, so the children can learn risk management...
Children sort of need to fall when they are small, to learn the consequences when the falls are small, their bodies heal fast and the risk for serious injury is small... both my daughters have fractured their arms... once while balancing on a log and fell off, the other while ice-skating, and then a week after the pot was taken off she slipped on the ice while walking home from school and fractured her other arm, one daughter has been concussed while skiing and vaulting (by accident) landing on her head... my son has a scar above his left eye from slipping on ice in the school yard...
accidents happen... my children have learnt from them... they have also learned that they heal. I have not made my children stop skiing, skating or playing because there is a risk 


Risks don't have to be about getting hurt... they can be about getting cold and wet... like this film shows of a girl playing the ice, going through the ice and the COLD water goes into her boots... you hear me laugh saying "I told you there was a risk of getting wet"... My job as educator, as a parent is to inform my children of the risks and then to let them make their own decision (if it is a danger then I intervene as an adult) but  experiencing risk allows them to understand that I am not just saying things for the sake of it... stuff REALLY can happen, and they get to feel HOW that happens and decide for the future whether that risk is worth taking again, or whether they want to learn new skills to avoid the risk all together...

video


I agree with the article... we really do not give children the space or freedom to play, really play in their own way. Too many are not empowering children to choose their own play... it is a kind of play dictatorship where adults have decided how and what play looks like. If we are to have democratic learning in preschools and schools then WE should be learning about play from the children... and harnessing that play-power to fuel the learning.
If we fail to understand their play, if we as adults are dictating their play how are we ever going to create a democratic classroom? How are we ever going to truly make learning meaningful... we have missed an essential link.


 I really feel that people have a too black and white approach when it comes to play-spaces it is so much more nuanced than that... what we NEED to look at is our own personal attitudes to the play-space... are we limited by our imaginations? Why are those one way to use equipment rules being imposed? How many of you have had a dialogue with the children about rules in the play-space, why they are there, what rules actually exist, are there written down anywhere that you go up the steps down the ramp? If not, why do so many adhere to this rule? What rules would the children have for the play-space and why?
have you ever taken a piece of equipment and challenged the children "how many different ways can you use this" - it is SO amazing to see... from hopscotches to climbing frames, to slides, to play-houses... give it a go... as it will expand your mind too...


Below are some images of risky play, challenging the children on how they see play equipment (breaking the mould of a prescribed way of using play-spaces), giving space for children to become competent users of the equipment on their own, and allowing children to freely explore on their own terms...

how many different ways can we play on a bench...

how many different ways can the children play on a fence...

how many different ways can you play on steps?

how many different ways can you get up... also we did not help the children up... they learned to help each other... we were always close to hand to make sure nothing was dangerous, or that frustration got to the point of feeling hopeless... encouragement was always freely and gladly given... and the children got good at doing that too!

making informed decisions... you will get wet if you fall on the waterlogged ice... it might give you a bruise if you fall hard. AND if you get wet you will start feeling cold... they had a great time, and they learned that getting wet in such cold weather means you really feel the cold... nice to have warm clothes to change int when getting back to preschool.

houses are not just for playing inside...


here the children are exploring how many different ways they can use the hop-scotch

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