I stumbled across this quote recently and it really resonated with me.

‘Often the richest, most productive play doesn’t look like much because it’s dawdling, imagining, daydreaming, big picture thinking. To encourage this kind of play we must: first value it; second, observe it; and lastly, not interrupt. The secret to not interrupting is to refrain from speaking to children until they initiate eye contact.’ – Janet Lansbury.

Of late Carly and I have been discussing how on earth we got to where we have in early childhood. I mean 10, 20 or 50 years ago it was so different, why do we have so many rules and protocols to keep the children ‘safe?’ Some of which feel as though we have been trained to refrain children from actually experiencing fun because everything needs to be documented or recorded so that learning can be captured and heaven forbid if planned experiences don’t work out!

I remember as a kid of only 4 or 5 years I would be up at the crack of dawn on the weekend and would be riding my bike around our apple orchard made up of acres upon acres. My siblings and I would ride to the edge of the river, up and down the sides of the dam, climb the highest trees and make our own bucket pulleys that stretched from tree to tree sending each other messages for hours and hours. We would climb to the very top of around 7 apple bins stacked on top of one and other and play hide and seek in the top. We would climb the sides of our 50m high machine shed and play chicken with plovers up the driveway. We had a shack across the road from the beach and we would spend all of our days there swimming, boogie boarding, building the biggest castles, tunnels and creeks in the sand, fishing on the rocks and climbing up the rocky banks to make new tracks in the bush.

Our adventures would be considered dangerous today, but the only time one of us got hurt was when our next door neighbour made a cubby out of bricks and it fell down and nearly cut my brother’s finger off. There was also the time I wanted to show my sister how I could fly my bike off the truck loading bay and sprained my arm but other than that we came home every day with no more than a few cuts and bruises. We also never had an adult there to defuse any of the arguments or disagreements we had. We either figured it our for ourselves with a scuffle and a few choice words or it was over before it begun.

There were also the other times when we would daydream together on the front lawn, tie our bikes together and ride around the house, potter in the garden, read books, have picnics, play schools and shops and hide-and-go-seek-stuck-in-the-mud-chasings (you had to say it as one word as fast as you could). All of which provided us with just as much fun and adventure as our more risky feats. All of these had 1 thing in common Mum and Dad never interrupted us – until it was time to clean up!

I even remember being in long day care and swinging in the biggest tyre swing connected to the oldest tree in the yard and then when I went on to OSHC and ASC I remember climbing the same tree. One day I fell out and caught my pants on a branch causing me to hang until I wriggled my way out, I didn’t need an educator to call my Mum or sit in a sick bay because I was a kid and that’s the sort of thing kids do or did! I know I am not the only one with memories like these as most of my friends around the same age had nearly the same experiences as us, mostly because they were with us as we got older and also lived in the country or at the beach.

My point is; why do we now wrap our children (our own and those we care for) in cotton wool? Why do we fix nearly every disagreement they have with each other? Why do we feel the need to interrupt their play to know what they are doing so we can then assess what their ‘learning’? Are we really capturing their learning or just what we feel they need to learn for us to feel valid instead of all the amazing things they discover themselves ever single day? For instance how they climb a tree, how they are connected to nature, how they figure out dirt turns to mud with water or how to be kind to their friends and the world around them, the list goes on. Writing this has also made it really evident to me how extremely important loose parts are in the early childhood setting for constructing, risk taking, imagination and creativity.

The more I research the more I realise we need to stand back and watch what the children are really doing. For me personally, if I can help one child have a childhood even a touch as free, adventurous and fun as mine was I will feel as though I have succeeded in my role as an educator. 

My sibling and I and where we grew up.