Creativity, exploration and understanding all have one critical thing in common: autonomy. If children are to have the education that they deserve, then the starting point has to be how much we ‘see’ them, how much value we place on their choices and what they are trying to communicate, both about themselves, and the world around them.
Exploring is vital to the programme of play - it’s a drive that is deeply ingrained in children, like a perpetual thirst, a desire to make sense of the way things work, of cause and effect and of the one thing that the school system seems unable to grasp but yet is so crucial, identity.
Who we are, who we are becoming and the person we will one day be are all contained within the context of identity-shaping, of self-architecture. Knowledge is one thing, but self-knowledge goes beyond a curriculum, beyond the outworn models of education based on control and hoop-jumping.
Every day is a ‘story’ that tells us who we are. Every experience either diminishes or grows us. In the Early Years, we often focus on physical development but running parallel to this, is the development of the ‘soul’, of each child’s ‘who-ness’. Play is the story of ‘being’, a story of the soul itself.
Spreadsheetism can never quantify the soul. Neo-liberalism will never be able to create a scale to measure it. And that is why it ignores it and instead seeks to create curriculums heavy on knowledge and output, even all these years on from eduction-for-Factory-ism that were first introduced in the 19th Century. The Adult World's intention for a system that is self-serving, that is based on the Ego, on the concept of 'readiness for the next stage' deliberately overshadows the identity of children, sending them instead to the 'limbo', the edge of non-being.
And because knowledge-based education models refuse to give up the ghost, continue to seek the dry husk of too-much-too-early, continue the narrative of pressure and accountability, with its CEOs and school business managers and its blueprint academy chains, then play pays the price. And play does so because play IS the soul...
Yet, play IS education, it IS progress, it IS knowledge. We may not be able to offer play in its purest form in our school systems, but we can offer its strongest echoes - we can offer choice, we can offer collaborative experiences, active learning and outdoor exploration. We can offer to follow children's lead and enable them to investigate their own lines of enquiry. It's all possible. To do this, the Adult World needs to give children time and space, needs to enable educators the opportunity to 'let go' of tight control, of excessive activity planning and group tasks, because in doing so we make time and space for the soul. And in a way, letting go also makes time and space for the soul of educators too. It reinvigorates and recharges them, it brings them to life: a play resurrection....
Maybe 2020 can be the year of Time and Space, the year of play, the year of childhood. But for now, it’s time for family, for snuggling into the home, for joy of community. Let’s re-charge ready to go again and let’s do everything within our power in the New Year to advocate childhood with all its magic, all its mystery and all its soul...
Happy Christmas in hope, faith and love - Greg
"A thought that never changes / Remains a stupid lie / It's never been quite the same..."
Your Silent Face, New Order
Across 2019, it has been a very real privilege to spend time in settings and schools helping to support practice and grow the conditions for play to thrive. So many educators want children to experience joy and wonder across their day, and it's been encouraging to see this happen with practitioners who are eager to enable choice, creativity and collaboration. In nurseries and preschools, there seems to be a strong desire for play to flourish, and it has been a blessing to have time in these settings, connecting with the magic of children and its infinite possibilities.
Play and freedom to explore is critical in our pre-school early years settings, simply because the echoes of play need to follow children into school, and do so like a happy twin through their educational journey. If play isn't alive in our pre-schools, then it becomes a lost word: parents aren't opened up to seeing just how important it is, and then don't expect it within their child's school experience. When this happens, when play is stifled, the Adult World is in danger of creating 'play deficit' - a very real and damaging experience for children. Play deficit pushes children to ‘the side of their own lives’ and denies them the ability to follow their own learning adventure.
Can I Go Play Now..? is committed to widening the understanding of the magic of children's play as an educational tool. Child-centred, play-based learning is where it's truly at....