Friday 4 January 2013

What is play?

searching for play?
I have had the good fortune to share energies with another preschool teacher here in Sweden on a facebook page - discussing play, or more exactly free-play - and what is it really?

Was I confusing free play with a free childhood?

Which is a good question.

But maybe they are one and the same thing. Maybe it is not possible to have a free childhood without free play - and I mean that form of play where the children are in control, not in a "Lord of the Flies" sort of way - but almost. I mean in the beginning all goes well for the boys on the island in "The Lord of the Flies" its only after some time without any adult guidance that it all goes wrong - until that point they are resourceful.

I most certainly believe in adults scaffolding the children's learning and play. We need to provide the situations where children can play positively and freely or otherwise we will be faced with children as "Squirrel" wrote as a comment in "Do children play enough"

They could not, by that point, be trusted without close supervision because the restlessness had developed into a lack of consideration for others and a lack of response to rules etc.

So back to my first question - what is play? What is FREE play? And what happens when children have lost the ability to play freely and need adult supervision so that we do not end up with a latter part of "Lord of the Flies"? 

Here is what Isabelle (11.11months) describes play as when I asked her
What is free-play?
"Free-play is more that you get to choose what you do, and not like a project... that you get set up. You choose what you do with the things that are there instead of doing what everyone else is"
What is play?
"Play is obviously the same thing, probably its ... it can be restricted as well as be free. Play is when the teachers have set something up and you can choose from what they have taken out - free play you can choose yourself if you want to do something else".
Does anyone tell you how to play?
"You shouldn't tell people how to play, you should be able to play how you want"
"Some people choose what their friends do instead of what they want"
Do you play differently now then when you did when you were younger?
"I think my imagination is smaller now - I don't pick up sticks and pretend its a fishing rod anymore."
Do you miss playing like that?
"I think I could do that again - but I am happy the way it is - I think I am happier reading books..."
Do you need adults to play?
"I think so, because usually when we play and get carried away, you usually stops us before we would do something we would regret."
Do you think I stop you too soon?
"Sometimes I think that, but I think you do it because you love us"
Which is best - playing with adults or playing with children
"Playing with children. Because children usually have more imagination. And probably because they laugh more"
When is it good to have an adult with?
"When you are doing things that you might need help with an adult might be good to have if you have an accident . because adults know what they are doing - not all children do - they think they do but they don't"
Do adults limit play?
"I think they do sometimes. Like if you make an experiment they might say its too messy, its too much of a hassle - or if you want to go swimming and the lake is cold they say no - but maybe we should test it for ourselves..."

A rather humbling experience - I guess more experiments in the kitchen might be needed... amongst other things.
I will ask the same questions to the other two in the coming days, it will be interesting to see what they say. When I have all three sets of answers I will share my reflections - maybe I will find out what play is - in all its forms (or maybe some of them...).

Don't ask me why the text changes all the time - because its not when I have written it!!!!

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