S E L F D I S P O S A L
“You're falling against the world again...”
Hold on, Roosevelt
It’s probably the hardest thing to do as an educator: letting go. Relinquishing control and enabling children to find space for themselves. The Adult World is dominated in its education systems with behaviour management and timetables and groupings and lesson planning and one great big preconception that children need to be ‘taught a lesson’.
So, it can be incredibly challenging to find the faith to let go, to accept that children don’t always need adults, that they are capable of being without intention.
When the Adult World begins to realise this, not only does it liberate children, it liberates itself: what we try to control, controls us. We lose patience and become afraid when children don’t do what they’re told or reinterpret the lovely continuous provision that we have painstakingly set up.
By letting go of children, we let go of ourselves and the moment we do that is the moment we awaken from the sleepwalk of the past, the ‘what-has-always-been-done’ and we enter a new freedom that, through play, can take us anywhere...
S H I P B U I L D I N G
“Closed minds don’t open doors...”
Addicted, Night Cafe
It’s all about joy: the joy of connection, the joy of discovery, the joy of belonging and the joy of being alive in the moment...
The abandonment of time, the openness to possibilities, the delight in being protagonist not antagonist, the surrender of oneself to what-might-happen-ness not what-will-happen-ness, and the discovery of purpose and meaning for itself are all deeply embedded in play.
Play isn’t frivolous. It has a current under the surface that breaks out in a child’s face, in the way they run, the way they rush to collaborate and support one another, it’s a look in their eyes that tells you that they have been ‘seen’. Play is the child...
This seeing-ness can only happen when we ourselves interact with love and hope, when we demonstrate that we value children for who they are in the Now.
When we look through the lens of love, we see children for who they truly are: competent, deserving and capable - play reveals the true colours of a child, colours which refract outwards like October-pale sunlight through jamjar water on a windowsill...
S T A R T I N G P O I N T S
“Well it seems so real, I can see it...”
Why Can’t I Touch It, The Buzzcocks
It always surprises me that so much of the Adult World goes about running schools with so little understanding of child development or its responsibility to the child not the spreadsheet.
Yes, there’s pressure. Yes, England’s curriculum is the product of blind political whim - see the meaninglessness of ‘British Values’ and the agendas of grammar and ‘knowledge-as-value’ for example - but that doesn’t mean that the Adult World should be excused from eroding our children’s sense of selves by denying play and joy in Early Years especially...
You couldn’t run a classic car without knowing how all of it works effectively, so how could you a school? The rise of wholeschoolism has brought about the near death of play and childhood but it’s time for a resurgence. It’s time to reveal the power that children have if we give them freedom to explore through play, to look beyond the limitations of ‘lesson observation’, beyond a diet of ‘here’s-more-of-what-you-can’t-do-because-you-can’t-do-it’ and go back to skills and emotional connection.
Play holds empowerment, children have more capability than data-ism, and the moment we say a big, loud ‘yes’ to play and connection, the closer we step towards children being part of their school day not a bolt-on to it...
Being before doing, skills before activity, child before data...
L I G H T A T T H E E N D
“Yes, we're both stuck in the same boat /
The world doesn't seem to get us though...”
She Plays Bass, Beabadoobee
To some eyes, play seems frivolous and without value - it is seen as a break from work, an ‘inbetween-ness’, like a semi-colon in the timetable, a run around break from the seriousness of lesson...
Seeing play in this way, cheapens its true richness and masks its vital role in the way children learn. Play doesn’t have to be confined to recess or lunchtimes - it’s essence can be embraced so that children can explore learning with natural curiosity, through collaboration, and bring their creative selves to the classroom’s four walls.
To do so, it requires the Adult World to start with play and then work backwards, to shift away from the dominance of lesson plan and ‘activity-to-prove’ and consider the art of play and playfulness.
Play is something that the Adult World needs to ‘get’ - when it does then perhaps that will be the catalyst for change, change from education ‘done to’ to ‘done with’. It’s why as Early Years educators we have to keep singing the song of play and seek as many ways we can to advocate children and crucially, it’s why we need to open dialogue with our teacher trainers and policy makers - to encourage a new vision amongst the next generation of teachers, one where children come first and then everything else follows...
N 0 B E T T E R P L A C E T O B E
“Lift your eyes up from ground / And look into the sky / Watch the moon descend on us / It’s come to say goodbye...”
The Wish, Mae Moore
When it comes to play and putting children at the heart of their learning adventure, there’s no clear direction: no North, South, East or West.
Play has the ability to go in any direction. It has an aimlessness within it, rich with possibilities. If we give children freedom to explore and investigate, then as educators, we have to adopt a new role, a new sense of ourselves: to be facilitators, lenders-of-a-hand-when-needed, enrichers.
In children’s time within the landscape of continuous provision, we sprinkle skills over them - these skills can come from any direction too: it’s why the 3Ms can be so powerful because they give you freedom to go with children: If you don’t know where play will take you, then it opens your mind more to children and what unfolds before you - you have less ‘agenda’, more possibility.
It’s what makes play such an adventure - it is the path into the Unknown. You never know where each day might lead. You never know what direction you might head in. All you do know, is that something special awaits with each and every step you take because you venture into the magic of children and there’s no better place to be...
L O O K I N G W I T H I N
“Life’s too short to be normal...”
The more I consider play, the more I realise that its power goes beyond education and is about the construction of identity. So it makes it even more important to embrace play in our settings.
When we enable play we are also enabling children to ‘build themselves’ and discover their own power to do so.
Freedom from constraint would also be just as applicable to us as educators - we might equally say ‘Can I Go And Play Now?’
Perhaps it’s about looking at ourselves and finding what freedoms we can take, explore the parameters that we have to ‘teach’ within and seeking ways to push the boundaries as best we can.
If we have opportunity to embrace play fully then our children are blessed. If we have to fight for play, then keep fighting because there’s more than just ‘education’ at stake...
A L I T T L E B I R D T O L D M E
“Then I watched you drive away / And take with you that smile away...”
Such A Shame, The Chain Gang of 1974
The magic of children doesn’t have to allude us. It doesn’t have to be a strange land that we never enter. It’s standing patiently waiting for us. It’s there if we open our minds and the minds of others to the richness of children’s play, all its value, it’s potential to open up the possibility of something new and not the outworn paths that the Adult World cling to out of fear and typecast-ism.
Children have an incredible power. We need to ‘unforget’ the memories and echoes of play that live within each and every one of us regardless of whether we are a parent, a leader, a policy maker or an educator and embrace the act of letting go of control so that children can show us who they are and how to live: through risk, exploration and a constant desire to unearth the New...
When we do this we change something outside of and within ourselves and, like a little bird once told me, that’s what we should do: to change, to throw ourselves into life and all it can possibly be and become...
D E P T H + S U R F A C E
From the Green and Black Books
The conditioning of the Adult World leads it to look at surface, at the veneer of what it sees. It wants immediacy, the obvious, the clear-to-see.
Play has an unseen depth. It defies the desire for immediate clarity with its complexity...”
Play is like an ocean with all the hidden life in its depths, all its energy which is not so easy to see at first glance. It requires a new way of looking, a long-sighted-ness to look beyond what is apparent and on towards the mystery within.
When we take time to ‘stand back’ and absorb the view, we allow ourselves the crucial opportunities to wonder for ourselves and bring our own curiosity to children’s thinking and doing in the moments of play.
And when we do this we give ourselves equal chance to stand back and look deep within ourselves too, at our own preconceptions, our own prejudices, our own memories - because to look deep within play is to look deep inside our very selves...
T H E R E S I S T A N C E
“How can I find the sun...?”
The more ‘activity’ we plan, the less likely we are of seeing what children are truly capable of. It can be very tempting to plot areas of provision around our own preconceptions of ‘what looks nice’ or what we think will attract children, but the most effective way of plotting provision is to actually un-plot it, to re-imagine each area as a hive of possibility, of ‘what might-be’s’...
If we focus on the inherent skills within provision rather than what we want to see happen, then children can bring themselves into our environment and interpret resources in ways we can only dream of.
It’s then that joy takes hold, not just for children, but for us too. When we see how children can truly be creative and collaborative then this magic draws us in as co-researchers, exploring, unearthing magic together...
Children weren’t born to follow. It’s us who needs to follow them - they know where they want to go after all...
M A K I N G M A R K S
“Cause you’ve been here forever // You can find it in a letter // Pink sky, together // And you know that it's not just another one...”
Read My Mind, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
In the lane that leads away from my house, down the hill, past the farms and fields lying lazy in the September sun, there’s a rock face that sits in the shady cool.
You might drive past it without further thought, but if you took a closer look you’d see it bears a hidden history, the etchings of initials and names of children who once walked the lane as they made their way to and from the next village which in a time long ago was referred to as ‘the other country’...
Making our mark, leaving an imprint on our days, is something we are compelled to do - we are driven to stand out, to let others know we were once there, that we lived in a similar moment, that we share a connection from the past into the future.
It’s a reminder to question ourselves as educators as to how much of the day we open to children to leave their ‘mark’ on it, how much space we truly give them to reveal themselves, to show us the joy of play with all its richness and possibility.
If we continually make ‘marks’ for them, if we diminish the power that children have inside themselves, if we don’t enable children to explore or take risks, then we deny them the adventure that life can and ought to be.
In 1941, B.B. left their name for us to discover almost 80 years on, a message, a memory, a dream. Perhaps it’s a reminder too for space for children all these years on: “Here I am, I am me, let me make my mark on the day so that I can be SEEN...”
F I R S T I M P R E S S I O N S
“Crossing the skyway // All shown // Miles away //
From home // True recollection // Of when we were // Bright reflections...”
Recollection, Keep Shelly In Athens
Maybe it’s not just about our interactions. Maybe it’s not just about the skills we sprinkle. Maybe it’s not just what we unearth about children. Perhaps just as importantly, it’s about the impression we make on children...
What footprint do we leave on children when we spend time with them? How do we add to their sense of self? What self-reflections are we shaping in the invisibility of their minds through what we say and how we say it? What message do we send to children through our behaviours and the ways we bring ourselves into the learning landscape?
All too often perhaps we focus on the children as if experience with them is one-way: what we can prove, what knowledge, what progress we can bring about without really stepping back and looking at ourselves as educators.
The Adult World is trained to control, to direct, to be the ‘centre of attention’ the Ego in the room. Maybe it would be more enabling if it took a long hard look at itself and shrugged off some of the conceit it might have and instead, enter each day with a growing heart of ‘letting-go-ness’...
If it did that, it might give children space to breathe the air of play, to reveal themselves but also to receive the early impression that they are valued and respected as people, as emerging identities. For when we do that, perhaps that’s the moment when children feel truly loved, that they are not temporary companions for three terms to be moved on but are ‘seen’ and cherished for their ‘who-ness’ in that very slice of time - because it’s children’s ‘who-ness’ that meets life head-on with a fully playful heart and L I V E S it...
T H E M O O N’ S A B A L L O O N
“In the Othertime / In a bargain basement / You were recognised / Then from time to time / Much to my amazement / With each ensuing episode / Your elegance it really shows...”
Othertime, Steve Kilbey
The more we explore the world of play, the more we go deeper and further into all the magic that awaits there with its overspilling wonder, its ways of seeing, and its joy of living life with energy and passion. In doing so, we begin to see how our own lives should be lived.
Children are a message to us - every day they remind us to live in the Now: to leave the past, to put down the future and simply unlock each moment as it emerges. Children are the Wonderful Now and play is a signpost to somewhere within ourselves, pointing the way to follow that will lead to our own childhoods that are perhaps long-forgotten.
We are who we once were - we played and then were told to grow up. Play became a luxury, a reward when it should have been our natural sanctuary, our home. When we open up opportunities for children to play, we change the world - we declare the freedom to explore and the possibility to BE a unique someone.
And to do this, we need love. Put quite simply, that is what play is. It’s love and it’s time to fall in it and never, ever look back...
L I K E A B I R D O N A W I R E
“Night time is so lonely / When you hear a sound / But it’s only an empty heart / Beating on / Through the night / A sad, sad drum...”
To Be In Your Eyes, The Church
In a heartbeat, play disappears or so it seems. What you thought you might hold on to as a child, slips through your fingers and gone. It’s like a bird on a wire, there for an instant only...
Did we ‘grow out’ of play or was it ‘grown out’ of us through the choices that the Adult World took for us, the control and the conformity that it saw fit to impose through the experiences it offered us?
To be playful and to see life through the eyes of play, is a drive that’s still deep within us as adults however - we still have the compulsion to explore and adventure, to fall in love with the world and all its possibility. There is still a myriad of opportunity and ‘being-ness’ before us, we can fill whatever ‘empty-hearted-ness’ we might carry with the echo of the magic children reveal to us.
Play is strength. It is vitality. It is the great big Moving Forward, the open hand that can lead us to really see the world for what it truly is.
Perhaps play is like that bird on a wire, but when it’s gone in a blink maybe it’s because it’s joyfully soaring out in the blue, the expanse of air and space, wingtips in the breeze, a lesson in delight and living again...
T I M E T I C K S
“We’ll go sit on the front lawn / We'll watch the fireflies as the sun goes down / They don't live too long just a flash and then they're gone / We'll laugh at them and watch the sun go down...”
Firefly, Mark Eitzel
Childhood is a time outside of time. It’s where the clock hand tick is diminished by the rhythm of the childish heart and the sparks of imagination that, like constellations, are bright pinpricks of light, scattering reminders of all that can be good in the world.
How quickly the Adult World seems to turn its back on children. How self-pleased it becomes with its curriculum, its testing, its scoring and control. The Adult World seems to believe that it ‘adds value’ to children through its spreadsheets and its ‘teaching’, yet all the while it forgets that children already have value, a value that far outweighs Adult World-ism...
Childhood shouldn’t be a season of the firefly, momentary then gone. Its echo into life and the lessons that it teaches us about how to live and love are beyond a short period of time. Childhood is ‘long-lasting-ness’ and play is the realm from which it emerges.
Every time we enable play and give space to children to explore and create and be, we reveal children’s value not only to themselves but to the Adult World - we begin to change parental views, we open up the possibility that other colleagues can recognise who children are, their capabilities and the teaching that they can bring to us...
So providing play isn’t about fun or joy or downtime or ‘a break from learning’ - it IS critical learning and not just for children but for us too: to learn to look both inwards and outwards, and to learn that we ourselves aren’t fireflies, but can burn just as bright and for more than just a short season...
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....