Increasingly, or so it would seem, we are becoming a nation of Indoor-ers. Our time is spent within the shelter of our homes, locked out from the world around us, living contented with merely seeing it through the lens of an phone screen or tablet.
Children live in a time of nature deficit, they are less connected to the natural world than previous generations, with words, pastimes and ways slowly eroding in the face of the immediacy and buzz of social media and the Now-ness that lies within the touch of a finger tip.
Much of this has been caused by fear. Fear of what might happen if we venture too far, fear of others, fear of a threat, one that is perpetuated by the press and heresay. Children are being shaped to feel safer indoors and to value online connection above the healing of interaction with the natural world.
Not all children are like this of course but it certainly feels like the majority are. And how did they end up this way? Because they watched the adults do it. Because the adult world suggested a new reality, a new way of living that could provide all without needing to leave the house.
The reality is that we have a generation of children who’s first instinct is not to look outside but to plug in. Children at an increasingly young age seem to be head down, transfixed by pixels and sound, oblivious of surroundings. And who hands these over? Who buys these devices to keep children quiet, entertain them, occupy them while the world goes about is business? The adults. They’ve evolved the TV’s role as an occasional nanny to become an ever-present, all-absorbing childminder.
Don’t get me wrong I love technology.
This is a screenshot from a game that I used to play on my brother’s ZX81 - we played it for hours and then when we upgraded to the Commodore 64 we’d play obsessively. So I understand the brilliance of gaming and of connecting to a device. But we had balance - warm afternoons spent playing football, long walks to woods where the trees offered climbing and den building, crab apple fights with the kids from the next street, endless games of cricket in which four or five of us would take turns to bat or bowl, all of us hunting for the ball if it was sent into the long grass of the apple orchard.
It’s time we enabled our children to be Outsiders once again. It’s time to reconnect and re-adventure. If technology is so embedded in society how can we change it? It is the adult world needs to change. We need to embrace something that over time has created the conditions for children’s nature disconnection: risk. And if we can’t change society over night then why not at least try to change our little corner of it in our setting?
Children want to take risk. It’s part of their growth, their inner learning curve. Risk is one of the many ways that they begin to make sense of the world, how they weigh it up and give value to their experiences. Yet as adults we’re often very quick to intervene. We either project our own fear into them with a hasty “Careful!” or we shut down the experience even before it’s begun.
We as adults need to take a risk. We need to find our faith in children, give them space to discover for themselves, to investigate, explore and test. We need to come away from experiences that have been pre-ordained and controlled so that they can throw themselves into their environment. The greatest risk we can take is to begin a journey of un-planning, of un-controlling. Our desire for outcome, our innate programmed idea of what school should be, the adult world demand for ‘school readiness’, school policies that are often devoid of child-centred pedagogy are all things that create fear within us as adults. We project this onto the children in our setting. We try to control because we perceive that control gives us ‘learning’.
But in reality it is giving us un-learning. This fear, the inability to let go and let children BE, results in the erosion of play, a classroom based climate, timetables that restrict, and if children do get to venture outside, a risk assessment process that puts fear right back at the heart of the experience.
It’s time to take a risk. It’s time to put children back at the centre. It time to truly embrace the magic of children. How can you take action to change your little corner of the world? How can you shape the children in your setting to be the Outsiders they can and ought to be? There’s no better time than now - un-plan, un-fear, un-risk...
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....