My principal preoccupation since leaving academics last May has been reading, thinking, and writing about kids’ play, especially free play, and its role in their social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development. This preoccupation arose initially from my frustration and distaste (bordering on irrational hatred) of all the ugly, cheap, plastic toys that took over our house and my feeling that school, aftercare, and their organized activities left them with very little time to just play. I felt that they were missing out on something really precious and important. I wanted them to have a childhood with more freedom, more self-direction, more down time, and also more boredom. I knew that the best parts of my childhood were those moments when I was with my friends outside of adult supervision, exploring the woods across the street from our house or running or riding bikes around the neighborhood, or playing games that we created.
For the last nine months, I have been working diligently to create the time and space for them to just play so that they have more control over their childhood, can discover their own interests, can experiment, can spend more time with each other and their friends free from adult influence. We dropped aftercare for Will when I quit Temple. We stopped some of the kids’ activities. I began to set aside long periods after school for the kids to just play, with only one rule: no TV and no devices.
I have also been thinking a lot about how one can craft an environment inside the home and outside that encourages and inspires kids to be creative, to design their own world, and to become more independent and free. Initially, my focus was on creating natural, more beautiful play sets and backyard obstacles to encourage them to explore and master the outdoor environment and areas inside our house dedicated to art. Here are a couple pics of the initial things I have installed in the house and yard.
More recently, I have been thinking about the kinds of environmental props I can design and build to give them and their friends the materials and tools necessary to create their own world in the backyard this summer. Pictures to come soon hopefully.