Children hunger for a taste of freedom. They are strongly driven to get to grips with the people, places and things around them. To figure stuff out for themselves, to learn new skills, and to build their self-confidence and their sense of what they are capable of.
Much of this figuring out, this learning, this confidence-building, happens when children are playing, exploring, experimenting, and testing themselves.
This ‘effort after mastery’ is an incredibly powerful, natural learning impulse. What is more, it kicks in right from birth, and can be seen throughout childhood. Just watch any toddler learning to walk, trying over and over to master the art of putting one foot in front of the other.
If you want to be really sure of a change in social attitudes, wait until it is picked up by corporate advertising. With this maxim in mind, I was intrigued to see this new video from the global household products corporation Procter and Gamble.
Technology has an ever greater role in children’s lives, and its effects are the focus of ever more heated debate. It is easy for advocates of nature, outdoor play and everyday childhood freedoms to think that screens and gadgets are our enemy. But the truth is that things are a little more complicated than that.
Last Friday I spoke with a parent from a local primary school about her 6-year-old daughter’s school report. The report stated that her daughter “has not met the expected standard for the Year 1 phonics screening check.” The parent told me how puzzled they both were by this, because her daughter could confidently read lots of written material by herself – including this very statement from her report.
I was recently told about an article on tree-climbing, by an Australian after-school service. It rightly makes the case that the benefits of this activity clearly outweigh the risks. The video footage certainly reinforces this, showing the children’s appetite for the experience, and their obvious competence. And yet, even though I think that what St Joseph’s is doing here is terrific, something in the clip jarred with me. It was the very presence of the grown-ups. Such a contrast from my own childhood memories of climbing trees. Continue reading →