A Consideration of Risk

Give the photo below a moment of your mind.  What’s your gut reaction to this set up as an appropriate place for children to play? Is it safe? Dangerous? Appropriate for children? Inappropriate?  What would you need to know to say “Yes!” if your child asked you if they could play here?IMG_0299 - Version 2
As has ever been the case, we live world surrounded by inherent risk. The fact we exist for more than a moment in time is beyond all odds. And yet we do. It was not long ago that we humans began the interesting concept of betting against ourselves by purchasing insurance. Essentially, with insurance, we are betting we will hurt ourselves. So we pay money to people we don’t even know that are betting we won’t. The winner is the entity that spends the least amount of money on dealing with the results WHEN we do get hurt. Rare is the person among us that has never been injured. I am not advocating for getting hurt. In fact, quite the opposite. Here is what I AM advocating for.  I would like us to consider that one way to reduce the odds that any child gets badly injured just might be letting them experience lots of little hurts.  Sounds like an odd argument, I’ll give you that.  Here’s my argument:  A) The world is full of risk. B) Every child encounters risk daily, with or without us present. C) I want my child to be able to identify and manage the risk she encounters. D) Children learn best through real experiences and repeated practice.  E) Careful and reasoned exposure to risk allows children to practice identifying and navigating risk on their own.  F) The cost of occasional bumps and bruises returns the benefit of experience that reduces bigger bumps and bruises down the road.  This is not my idea alone.  In fact, click HERE to go to a really good article on risk from the Children at Nature Network by Ken Finch.

But there are other payoffs to allowing children to play in the type of environment pictured above.  This environment was created by children.  In the process they learned physics, group cooperation, geometry, the properties of materials like wood, construction techniques, and much more.  The picture below shows some of that learning in process.  In a world where we have become almost pathologically averse to risk, we need to reverse that trend.  Our safety depends on it.  Just an opinion.



Loose Parts Play – Baskets of Fun

When children play with toys that self-define what they are… cars, castles, dolls, barns, … play is often limited to the boundaries of those objects.  Cars do what cars do.  Dolls do what dolls do.  But when children are exposed to lots of loose parts that can only really be defined by imagination, the boundaries of their play expands.  I only wish you could have heard the dialogue that went with this particular play moment.  The ingredients of the moment are all pictured.  The invitation to play is at the top.  It is followed by the ingredients of play.  It ends with one picture of play in progress.  Here’s a fairly succinct link to information about loose part play theory from Surrey County in England. HERE

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Horror vacui – Valentines 2014

On Sunday, February 9th we gathered up all of our art supplies and arranged them on the dining room table.  Aerie came with Juniper, Annie brought over Boone, Julie came with Bailey.  Ruby worked incessantly on one single valentine while everybody else worked on many.  Aerie reminded us of a term in art – horror vacui – an artistic style where all empty space is filled.  Here is Ruby’s horro vacui valentine.  She gave it to Juniper.

Horror Vacui Valentine - 2014

Puppet Prom 2014

I just love Squallis Puppeteers as an organization.  Love what they do.  Love how they do it. Love the community of folk that make it happen.  I had the great pleasure of serving on their board some years ago when the annual fund raising event was the Fools Day Bash on or around April 1.  Now it’s Puppet Prom.  I like the prom theme just as much.  We’ve been going to this for years now.  Ruby had a ball.  Erin said she was like a Will-O-The-Wisp. I thought it such a good term.  Here’s a few pictures taken in the photo booth at this years puppet prom.  I especially like the series of shots that Bailey and Ruby took together.  It would have been a hoot to have been in the booth with them. But then this wouldn’t have happened.  You can find out more about Squallis Puppeteers by clicking HERE.

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Day of Play – CAP Conference Year One

On Saturday, October 5th, as part of the first Children at Play Conference at Bernheim, a small community of play advocates and children gathered to explore how children play when they are allowed the opportunity to interact with their environment in ways that most “fixed equipment” playgrounds don’t.  We provided lots of “loose parts” such as:

  • cardboard boxes
  • ropes
  • cut bamboo
  • ropes, strings and cargo webbing
  • straw bales
  • sticks, rocks and stumps
  • driftwood logs
  • canvas tarps
  • balls, plungers

We offered them knives and box cutters to use under supervision.  We helped tie knots and move heavy things when assistance was asked for. We gave them drums and buckets and brooms.  But mostly we stayed out of their way simply observing.  When children have the opportunity to fully interact with their environment they play in ways that look very different from the way they play in most playground environments.  They interact with each other more fully.  They make up rules and social contracts with one another.  They focus on a task and stay on focus for long periods of time.  They problem solve.  They problem create.  They put things together, including their thoughts, in creative and interesting ways.  Here’s a few pictures from the day.

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