When you were a child, what did you do for fun? How do you think kids today respond? Pull out themes of: Time to get bored Find own fun / hobbies Creativity Nature Mixed age groups
Kids today have less time to play: More screen time Less recess, longer school days, more homework and testing. After school kids are shuttled to other adult directed activities like sports teams, swimming lessons, and dance classes, leaving precious little time for the kind of free play that is the foundation of a real education, and a healthy psyche.
This results in increased anxiety and depression in young people. The rates of what today would be diagnosed as generalized anxiety disorder and major depression are five to eight times what they were in the 1950s. Over the same period, the suicide rate for young people aged 15 to 24 has more than doubled, and that for children under age 15 has quadrupled.
There’s a traditional, typical perception that learning is what children do in school and other adult-directed activities. Playing is, at best, a refreshing break from learning. But we’d like to offer an alternative view – that the best learning happens during child-directed play. At play, children learn the most important of life’s lessons, the ones that cannot be taught in school. To learn these lessons well, children need lots of play — lots and lots of it, without interference from adults.
Social skills Problem solving Self-control Creative thinking
Play is, in fact, "practice" for the skills most necessary for survival: in other words, real education comes through play. Children, through their play, practice vital skills as negotiation, building relationships, and working together toward common goals, practicing the skills they will need to live productive, satisfying, creative lives.
Kids who have free play outside have:
Better moods, Less anxiety and depression Decreased ADHD Fine and gross motor skills Increased empathy, decreased narcissism Cooperation, helping skills Problem solving, creative thinking Emotional literacy
A bit more about what we are doing – Our mission is to create nurturing play spaces to support WNC’s capacity for health, wellbeing and connection.
We want more children playing with simple materials, outside, with adult support but driven by the kid’s agendas. Why simple materials?
We joke about kids using the box more than the toy – but playing with a box offers the best kind of play. No right / wrong way to play. No expectations. No limitations. They can be anything and do anything.
Simple materials results in more creative play.
Currently connected with the Jackson County Family Resource Center as a program of their non-profit. We’re in the communication phase where we’re having lots of conversations with folks around the community - the library, parks and rec, play therapists, and local government.
We’ve hosted 3 pop-up adventure play events so far – Cardboard city, Nature curtain, Music Makers. This weekend we’ll be at GUTM, and May 6th we’re hosting a “Have a ball” pop up at Poteet, and hosting an Art in the Garden event in June at the Cullowhee community garden.
We recognize these add another scheduled event to already overflowing calendars, but once families arrive at the event, there is no agenda. Just the necessary ingredients for free play.
This photo is during one of our pop-up play events, a game of kick-around soccer evolved in the grassy area at Bridge Park. When we are moving our bodies more & being in nature more We are also: Spending less time in front of screens Spending more time engaging with people, feeling cared for and caring for others
At Cardboard City, we had a diversity of community members – age, race, socioeconomic status. There were several families struggling with homelessness in attendance, playing along side of professor’s kids from WCU. This has such extraordinary potential for our community.
Advocacy for the creation of additional play space(s) – trying to get more outdoor playspaces. This uses all materials we could find freely in the woods – it just takes a space to put them and people to put them together. There’s that grassy area behind the softball field in Webster that we’re advocating for a naturescape play scape to be installed. There are several greenspaces along the Tuck Greenway where this kind of thing could be really fun and beneficial.
Long term hoping for an indoor/outdoor play space for all ages in the community. What we recognize is that our community has great outdoor play areas, and some wonderful indoor spaces like the library, rec center, churches – but nothing that includes an indoor space that’s available to the whole community that allows for exuberant play.
Ideally we’d like to build a space that integrates inside and outside with simple, natural materials.
Hands on! in Hendersonville is a good example. Similar space in Boone. Small, children’s museum spaces that add vitality to the town. Again, it would ideally be a space with both indoor and outdoor play areas for all ages and abilities that brings the community together.
Poem by William Martin
What thoughts and questions do you all have for us?
4/20/2017 - The Play Sanctuary
Returning to our Roots
The Importance of Free Play