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The Shared Space

What is it that childhood wants and deserves? The answers to this question will be varied of course, but I’d hope that if you are one of the Play People, those adults who are passionate about shaping an education done with children and not to them, then one of the words I’m pretty sure will be on your lips is ‘play’.

The Adult World often sees play as something trivial or disconnected from ‘learning’, but as Play People we know that the two go together like fish and chips or salt and vinegar. Play is the DNA of childhood and in my second book, ‘School and the Magic of Children’ I explored how play is necessary for the ‘soulification’ of children, for their identity and their sense of place in the world, whether it be through exploration, creativity or invention. We cannot take play out of childhood; it is simply there in its bloodstream.

In fact I would argue that the impulse for play never leaves us even in adult life. We crave moments of immersion in hobbies, sport, experiences, books, films and music because we want make-believe and to exercise our natural curiosity. We want something outside of ourselves – we want to be surprised and delighted. We want to feel alive with play-fullness.

Woman playing on playground in a Fredi sweatshirt
Photographer: Team Fredi | Source: Unsplash - Keeping the sense of play as an adult

Being play-full as adults is a critical part of our interactions with childhood when we are in our settings. I see our time spent with children not only being in the company of unique individual people but also in the presence of childhood itself. When we look at our day through this lens, we begin to see that we are like co-researchers alongside children, adventuring with them each and every day, making discoveries about how childhood sees the world and the message that it is trying to tell us. Again, it is why I’m so passionate about the Adult World putting the iPad down and the observation sheets away, and instead stepping into the magic of children to authentically be in the world of childhood, not as a site-seeing tourist, but as a co-player, brimming with possibilities and our own curiosities.

Of course, there are moments where we want to stand back and see what is unfolding before us, we want to honour and value children’s autonomy and independence and, hopefully as one of the Play People, you already know those moments when childhood is telling you to stand back and let it be.

This is all part of co-playing with children as are the moments when we find ourselves immersed in play, children having invited us in or indeed joining our own play. I believe that as adults we are not separate from play – we are equally the play. We have ideas and joy to share too and the more we show children our play-fullness, the more likely they are to see the setting as a shared space where children and adult are in solidarity together. The message to the children is that they are coming to a space that sees them, that the ‘power’ is divided, that their ideas and thinking and explorations have no hierarchy compared to the adult’s. We become part of the play; we become what I call the World of Good Things.

And it’s my experience that when children realise they are on an adventure with us and that the learning we share with them is given as a gift, we can then authentically begin to discover who they are and what their spark is. It is then that, in return, childhood welcomes us with open arms – children know that when we are around good things might happen, that we bring something magical to their day.

Photographer: Conner Baker | Source: Unsplash

Through our own play-fullness, children feel they belong and it is my belief that a sense of belonging is one of the greatest gifts we can ever give to children. Because when children know they belong, when they feel it in their very souls, then they also know that they are loved and I personally can’t think of anything better for children to feel every day when they step over the threshold into that World of Good Things…

Mini Moments: What is childhood trying to tell us about life? How do we bring our own play-fullness into each day? How do we show children that they are loved?