Play is a Child’s Work
Deep meaning lies often in childish play.
-Johann Friedrich von Schiller
The outdoors used to be a place where children could run, play, build, create, and do the mildly hazardous things children love to do. I remember walking the 5′ high cinderblock wall that ran like a vertebrae down the center of our block, jumping repeatedly from the garage roof so I could learn to land lightly, climbing trees with a good book, using scrap lumber and other discarded material to build a fort in a neglected corner of land next to a freeway, and countless other adventures that would make many adults wince. And I wasn’t even a particularly adventuresome kid.
Things have changed a lot, though. Children rarely seem to have the freedom to roam and play independently, and this is not a good thing. Hanna Rosin’s article, The Overprotected Kid, in the March issue of The Atlantic, is a fascinating look at what has happened to child’s play, and how it is affecting the development of significant skills.
Even though “play been demonstrated to improve academic performance, behavior, mental and physical health in children,” filmmaker Erin Davis suggests that America’s obsession with litigation, and “the rejection of any activity that does not have an immediate, quantifiable value” makes it more difficult to provide public adventure playgrounds.
Happily, homeschoolers have the ability to create their own adventure playgrounds. Provide space, time, old tools, and allow a random supply of junk to accumulate (childhood is short, and one day you can send it all packing), and you’ll have the ingredients for constructive, interesting play. Whether you’re in the city or the country, there is ample opportunity for adventure. Parents just have to be brave enough to allow it!
Here’s a preview of The Land, the documentary by filmmaker Erin Davis.
Don’t miss this interview with the filmmaker, Erin Davis: Inside a European Adventure Playground.
Finally, if you’re not yet convinced, read The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. It’s packed with evidence that outdoor play is a child’s work, and a very necessary work at that, for nature-deficit disorder can be a trigger for a raft of other unpleasant disorders.
Never neglect an opportunity to play leap-frog;
it is the best of all games, and,
unlike the terribly serious and conscientious pastimes of modern youth,
will never become professionalized.
-Herbert Beerbohm Tree
Our next conference will be the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. I hope to see you there!