Greg Bottrill, author of Can I Go Play Now..? and early years thought leader introduces us to his good friend Iva, AKA the importance of INSPIRATION, VITALITY and ACCEPTANCE.
Play-fullness and being play-full are both central to my philosophy around childhood, the adult co-playing with children as an equal on the adventure into learning and the world. For co-play to be truly powerful, children need to see the play-fullness, the lightness of heart within the adult.
The Adult World however has an extraordinary ability to make life very complicated and austere, and it seems to enjoy being this way in early education too (see check-listing, progression maps and data tracking for full details). It’s as though it wants life to be a linear path for children so that it can approve and congratulate itself, the Adult World appeasing the Adult World so to speak. It looks for itself, so it looks for conformity (see ‘fidelity to a phonics scheme’ for full details on this one.)
In doing so, the Adult World can be very quick to look for the serious side of living. You can see it in people’s faces – those who are far removed from childhood and seem to walk around with a suitcase full of buzzwords, ‘school readiness’, monitoring, performance and data drops.
Yet childhood isn’t looking for austerity and Dour Days. It wants hum and buzz and possibility. As Play People, we try to give these to children every day because we recognise that they need to be part of their own learning, following their fascinations, friendships and the call of their innate curiosity. Hopefully in doing so, we get pulled into their play and experiences and have opportunities to show them that adults ‘see’ them for who they are, valuing their ideas and thinking as well as offering them our own sense of lightness and play.
When we co-play with children (and yes, co-play has direct teaching and knowing when not to interact) we show them who we are. I often talk about the World of Good Things and it’s my belief that childhood, the learning landscape and we as adults are that World or at least can be. And it all begins with play-fullness, children knowing that we are there to keep them safe, show them skills, open up the magic world of story and to value them. When we are play-full, children see that they belong – their day is our day and vice versa.
There are of course many ways to be play-full, but they can be summed up by the sense children have that when we are around them good things can and often happen. Children want our company because we offer them three very powerful things:
I personify these by their initials: Iva.
Iva is what children and adults need within their days. We become like her when we co-play together. Iva is beyond ‘learning’. She is the very self and the more we are like her, the more we grow in confidence and stature.
Children want us to inspire them and in the same way we should be inspired by the magic of children, bringing our own curiosity into the room, not just looking for children’s. We can show them the inspiration that the natural world offers us, the joy of mark making and mathematics, the delight in playing with language and number, the glow of making up rhymes and immersing in the nonsense that childhood so often wants to see and hear. Through co-play we lend inspiration to one another, children and adult in a cycle, constantly evolving and seeking further inspiration through the play of ideas, language and the physical world.
Children want the vitality of the adults as well as from one another. Energy is central to play – both quiet and less so – it’s as though children are buzzing with ideas and thinking and want to express this into the world around them, influence it and create something new within it. They want the adults to reflect this energy, to be part of the flow of the day, not a controller of it necessarily – they want to sense our energy for play and for them. It’s often why Play People are so tired at the end of the day. We have given out energy into the room so that children feel at ‘home’.
And finally, children want acceptance – from adults, from one another but also internally, a strong sense of ‘Who I Am Is Enough’, a self-sufficiency that comes through play with all its invention and trajectories of possibility. When we show play-fullness, we see play-fullness - just what the Adult World truly needs to look for wouldn’t you say?
I hope in your own practice you find Iva. She’s waiting for you. You’ll know it when you find her because it’s when the World of Good Things enters the room…
How do you find Iva in your practice and how often is she there? How do the children see you and can you stand with the Play People to say ‘I see and value childhood for all its magic’? Iva will let you know it can…