Sunday, 26 September 2010

Losing the Ability to Play?

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When young children are fully absorbed, either in an observation of something - an ant on the path, a leaf in the wind, in their imaginary play, mimicking and re-enacting their day to day lives, maybe even of stories they know - their senses are open and committed and their interest complete - they are "engaged."

This experience of play is so healthy for a young child. If we interrupt it unnecessarily and regularly, we teach them to be superficial in their play and ultimately, their work.

Engagement Learning is the basis for the development of empathy & integrity in children

A great deal of material and study is now devoted to the observation that children feel more and more alienated - from the world around them, their families, other children in school, from learning, from a sense of interest, enthusiasm and so on.

The list of pressures affecting childhood have been clearly described in work such as "Toxic Childhood" Sue Palmer and "Last Child in the Woods" Richard Louv. But there is another aspect to the problem I have come to recognise through my own work: Children appear to be changing in the way they interact with the world and people around them; they don't play like we might expect and even hope for.

It often goes un-noticed because of the pace of our lifestyles and the escalating business of children's activities. The reasons are many, but the fact that they are less able to be fully "engaged" in their play means that we have children growing up with an increasingly tenuous connection to real experience.

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