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Our opportunities to play as children have influenced and shaped the capacity we have as adults to navigate our own lives. Play has influenced our own creative capacities and problem solving abilities. What kind of tools do we want our children to have in today’s world to create a future for themselves and their communities?

 

Take a moment and think back to your own childhood. Remember the thrill of bringing your body up to top speed, the anticipation and challenge of the words ‘on your mark, get set, go’. Maybe there was a tree you loved to climb, or the fleeing moment of wiggling creatures from the rock you overturned….remember your playmates – the worlds you created with those magic words “How about you be the…”, “I’ll be the” and “Let’s pretend!”. When adults are asked to recall their own childhood memories, these are the descriptions that surface time and time again: joyful, wonder, surprise, collaboration, time disappears, challenging, comforting, risk-taking, imaginative, acting out stories, freedom.

 

Valuing and supporting play in childhood produces thinkers who have strong adaptive strategies and creative skills. Isolating play from our institutions of learning risks alienating us from our most unique birth right – our CREATIVITY. Our creativity is needed to keep us alive. It allows us to see things anew and to see solutions to challenges both new and old. Our schools need to invest in play because play wires the brain – to be a complex system of networks that supports and sustains creativity.  Play is a natural attitude…a stance that leaves one open, curious, joyful and determined. It is important to healthy development and learning.

The most common type of play is Free-Play: The kind of play that is generated and initiated by children without the influence of adults. Adult would provide the time and place, whilst children take care of all the rest. Another kind of play invites the influence of adults. We call this Playful Inquiry – an inquisitive stance towards learning in which adults facilitate learning by encouraging, listening and wondering together with children. In playful inquiry there is no adult controlling the experience or imposing negative consequences therefore a child’s mind is open to learn…

 

Current research in neuroscience shows us that the brain is a highly complex, adaptable and flexible system. Play is the behavior that makes it possible for us to test new ideas and find out what works. Play literally sculpts the brain, giving us the resources you need to face the challenges we face in our daily life. It provides a state of mind that is optimum for learning where high challenge and low risk are present at the same time.

 

Play offers opportunities, experiences and environments that are designed for inspiring curiosity. A curious mind is an alert mind – one that is primed for learning. Play can create environments that are as enchanting as an old forest or a beach at low tide. Play invites a playful attitude to flourish, a mind that is freely and playfully associating its pride to uncover new ideas. Play supports relationships – the quality of our learning is influenced by the quality of our experiences with others. Relationships help us see patterns and make connections. Play creates environments that nurtures story-telling between children and between children and adults. We make sense of the world by sharing our stories. Play invites the child to be the care-taker, the nurturing one – empathy is that incredible human capacity to imagine ourselves in someone else’s shoes…it allows us to connect with the other and to live by the golden rule.

 

Educators need to serve as advocates for the rights of children and families to have abundant opportunities for play.