Tuesday, 13 August 2013

A Place to Experience Childhood

 A place to be a child......
or a place where "children can break their arm naturally"!

Or are these the same? In the present climate where so many adults fear for their children and there is a tendency to envisage worst case scenarios, the creation of the right natural play space in the centre of a large city is important. Children are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature and research has shown that this disconnection has long term negative effects.

Exploring Perth's Naturescape with Teacher Tom Hobson from Seattle Washington, allowed me to reflect on the coming together of 'wild nature' and 'manufactured nature' in this space that is creatively designed to allow children the freedom to explore and discover. I am a regular visitor and have written a previous simultaneous blog with Alec Duncan.

This is a place where "wild nature" meets "planned nature" - rocks placed to create a natural looking creek, trees planted to enclose spaces.

This is a place where "found nature" meets "manufactured nature" - water, rocks and vegetation added to hollowed out rock 'bowls', sticks and branches added to metal frames.

This is a place where adults play, where children play, where adults play with or alongside children.

This is a place where children of all ages can play together, where new momentary friends are made, where children can choose to play on their own, to observe.

This is a place where children can make a mess and get messy - mud play, water play, sand play.

This is a place where children can explore and experience the properties of materials - rocks, water, metal, wood, vegetation.

This is a place where play detectives can find evidence of play - rocks and sticks in unexpected places. 

 This is a place full of texture, colour, sound, fragrances, surprises!

This is a place where some experiences are not found and wait to be discovered at a later time or date.

This is a place where children can explore height, where they can climb, balance, jump, crawl, run, build, construct, design, create.

This is a place where adults can take a risk - physical risks as well as emotional risks trusting in their children's skill and ability to make judgements.

This is a place where children can challenge themselves naturally, where they can choose and manage their own risks, where they can demonstrate their skills as risk assessors.

Children will search for challenge and if the environment around them does not provide appropriate challenge children will create their own, often inappropriate, opportunities which may carry a far greater risk to themselves and to others.  

Children have a right to be trusted, to be seen as competent self risk assessors. They have a right to a quality childhood with range of sensorial experiences and challenges.

"Rather a broken bone than a broken spirit" is a quote often heard -  on our visit to the Naturescape a mother shared her view that this is a place where "children can break their arm naturally"!

The biggest risk is that there is no risk!  (Bundy)

1 comment:

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