Hurrah for Play

Play is vital for us all, so let's give kids more of it.

PEOPLE AND RELATIONSHIPS

Joan

9/19/20235 min read

As a one time teacher of young children I know exactly how essential play is to child development. Every time I read of new educational policies in the U.K., with their ever increasing emphasis on rote learning and examinations, I despair. It would seem that all the wisdom that was dispensed by Piaget, Montessori and their ilk about the nature of learning has been chucked out of the window by ignorant politicians. Children need space and freedom to experiment without fear of failure. They also need to play outdoors, but there again the trend is negative. Sports are neglected in British schools , playing fields sold off to developers, and some cash strapped councils are even unable to maintain existing children's play parks. That is why my heart soared when I saw the recent developments in our village. Where once we had a large flat area of earth with a couple of rickety football posts, trees have now been planted , a beautiful wall built in local stone, and best of all a wonderful children's play park has been created.

Our new play park
Our new play park
Playground regulations
Playground regulations

But this play park does not only bring joy and benefits to the children of the village, it is a boon for their parents too. For traditionally village houses were built without any adjacent land. Some villagers like Roland the olive grower (see my earlier blog) may own many hectares of productive land on the edges of the village, but he lives in the main village street. Others may have a small potager or veg. plot some distance away from their house. However I know of one family who possess no outdoor space at all . They live by the edge of the Route Royale, and have two very young children. It was a joy to see these children clambering on the apparatus recently, while their mother chatted to a neighbour at a newly provided picnic table. Playparks are a community wide benefit too!.

A restful spot for the grown ups!
A restful spot for the grown ups!

There are some highly imaginative and challenging children's play parks in France, but perhaps my favourite is the one that sits in the park alongside the Corum, Montpellier's fine modern concert hall. As you will see from the photograph every challenge has a musical theme. It is both weird and wonderful. However, I wonder how many children are bothered , or even notice this. For doesn't their fun lie in the physical challenges and friendships made? In this huge play park, there are certainly plenty of those to be had.

A play park with a musical theme , Montpellier.
A play park with a musical theme , Montpellier.

But however stimulating and challenging these play parks are , we should allow children the freedom to explore and to invent their own games too. How many times have you heard parents say that their child spent more time playing with the cardboard box than the toy inside it? We came across this wonderful adaptation of a large box the other day when we walked to neighbouring Aubaygues. No doubt the new occupant of this miniature play house has every bit as much enjoyment in his/her little cardboard house , than if it were made of the finest wood or bright coloured plastic...or dare I say even more!

Improvised toy house
Improvised toy house