"Play is a child's work and this is not a trivial pursuit." – Alfred Adler
Play is a big part of learning for a child but should it be all soft and gentle or is a bit of ‘rough and tumble’ needed?
My readers are people interested in Education, and their ages range from the 20’s to in the 70’s. Those who are older will remember “our” kind of playground – lots of hard blacktop surface with painted hopscotches; a “merry-go-round” with no governor to control speed, allowing kids to spin faster and faster until centrifugal forces threw us off; tall sliding boards, usually stainless steel or aluminum, both conductors of heat in the sunshine; and the perilous Jungle Jim, and monkey bars, enticing us to compete in tests of strength, leading to many broken arms. Of course there were swing sets, cemented in the hard blacktop. The playgrounds of the 1950’s, 60’s. and 70’s had no spots for a soft landing.
Then, along came a group who wanted a softer and gentler playground, which eradicated the dangerous merry-go-round and many other challenges and enjoyments. Playgrounds became safer, but also duller. It seems the tide has turned again.
I read an article recently, and then saw a television story, about changing playgrounds into a risky fun zone for kids. They are called “Adventure Playgrounds’, and they are supposed to build confidence and courage, along with resilience, in children.
Psychologists have long agreed that play is powerful for our children, and the adventure playground allows kids to be kids in an unstructured environment with no adult interference.
I am a fan of this playground concept. For so many years, parents have planned every activity in their child’s day. I believe that if I were a kid in today’s world, I would hate all those planned non-spontaneous activities. My generation spent every day outside on our bikes and in the ball yard, swooping into the house for short meals, then rushing back outside to play. No obesity problems back then – we were too busy catching fireflies, as well as playing stick ball and 7-Up; “It” and “Hide and Seek,” The most important rule of our days was to be home when the street lights came on. Times were simpler, and we learned to solve our problems on the playground and on the ball field, with no adult intervention. The playground and unstructured days with friends became our summer classroom.
In 1931, a Danish landscape architect noticed that kids were playing everywhere except the playgrounds. They loved construction sites, and burned out buildings of WW II were favourite spots for kids to play. Some of the concepts of today’s adventure playground borrow from that architect and involve risks. Loose boards, old engine parts, and other “junk” are scattered on the playground to stimulate creativity. I would loved to have played on that kind of playground!
I urge you to take a look at the article about this idea for playgrounds to help kids learn and be creative. I think it is an idea whose time has come. Kids need to be less protected in their homogenized environments and stretch their wings and imaginations.
Dede Rittman is a 37-year veteran English/ Theater teacher from Pittsburgh, PA, teaching 35 years in the North Allegheny School District, where she also was Varsity Head Boys’ Golf Coach for 33 years, directed the spring musical and talent shows, and contributed to many district initiatives. She was a PA Teacher of the Year semi-finalist in 2011, the year she had to retire when her husband, Scott, was dying from stage four colon cancer. Dede’s book STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER was published in September 2014 and the book has won 8 awards. Nationwide, colleges and universities are using her book, and Dede accepts speaking engagements around the country, with some focusing on education, and some on motivation. She is a guest blogger for educational magazines and was the Co-host of The Total Education Q and A Show, which was heard around the world on 120 stations in 80 countries on www.blogtalkradio.com/totaltutor. Dede gives presentations around the globe on both of her books through www.fieldtripzoom.com and www.streamblelearning.com . Dede writes a weekly blog for teacher inspiration at www.bunnyteacher.blogspot.com. GRADY GETS GLASSES, Dede’s children’s book, just came out in hardcover. The book won Best New Children’s Book 2016 from The Authors’ Zone. Dede has also won two Album of Distinction Awards from Delta Kappa Gamma in 2015 and 2017; the prestigious I AM L.E.E. (Living Education Everyday) Award in 2016; and she was inducted into the North Allegheny Sports Hall of Fame in October of 2017. Dede works very hard on promoting her books and speaking engagements. She enjoys continuing teaching grades kindergarten to college through her books!
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