In one sense lockdown may be a little less daunting this time around, in part because of the hope offered by the vaccination programme. That said, many parents will be all too aware of the impact of school closures on their children’s education. They will be desperate to do whatever they can to keep their children from falling further behind.
[Updated 25 April 2020 and on previous dates, with new links to other posts, ideas and reflections, plus a few additions (in italic) and deletions (in strikethrough text) to reflect the 23 March 2020 address to the nation from the UK Prime Minister, and subsequent official guidance for England.]
The lives of parents and caregivers around the world are being turned upside down. But amidst all the fear, stress and uncertainty, children of all ages still want – and need – to play.
This post shares some thoughts and ideas on supporting children’s play in these challenging times, bearing in mind that they may need to be indoors, or socially distancing themselvesfollowing official guidance if they are outside.
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.
Last Sunday it snowed round our way. For the first time in years my neighbourhood – like much of London, the South East and beyond – woke up to a blanket of fresh, snowball-perfect snow. And guess what: children went outside and played. They sledged. They made snowmen and snow angels. They had snowball fights.
This weekend’s New York Times has a major feature and profile on Mike Lanza and his Playborhood campaign to make neighbourhoods more play-friendly. And it’s whipping up a storm. In this piece, I give my take on the campaign and my response to the key criticisms.
First, some background. Lanza’s rallying cry is “turn your neighborhood into a place for play” – a goal he has been pursuing for at least nine years. His book and blog are first and foremost a set of practical advice, ideas and case studies for achieving that goal.
Lanza first got into the issue because of his concerns as a dad bringing up three children. What drives him is, in large part, the contrast between his own typically free-range 70s childhood and the highly constrained lives of most children today. I share his view that this change marks a profound loss.
Lanza’s campaign is aimed squarely at parents. He has three big messages for them: you should care about your kids’ play and everyday freedoms, you can and should take steps to expand them, and you should start with your own home and neighbourhood. The youtube video below introduces Lanza and his Playborhood idea.
Here’s a quote from Pope Francis’ Statement on the Family, published a couple of weeks ago and highlighted yesterday on Lenore Skenazy’s website:
Obsession, however, is not education. We cannot control every situation that a child may experience… If parents are obsessed with always knowing where their children are and controlling all their movements, they will seek only to dominate space. But this is no way to educate, strengthen and prepare their children to face challenges. What is most important is the ability lovingly to help them grow in freedom, maturity, overall discipline and real autonomy.
I am a non-believer myself. Even so, this is well worthy of a reblog. Full credit to the Pope for giving such a clear statement on the need for parents to give children some space and time to make their own journey to becoming responsible, confident, competent and resilient people. It speaks directly to the value of everyday freedoms in childhood. And hats off to Lenore for spotting and sharing.