When parents consider the idea of moving and finding a new home, some of the first things they look at are the neighborhood and the schools. Is the neighborhood safe? Are the schools rated well? Will the environment help to get your child ahead? Ready for college? Ready for a successful career?
And this happens no matter how old the children are.
Wanting the best for children is good and natural but, what if our understanding of “what’s best” has been misinformed?
What if there was something different we should be looking for? Something different we should be offering children to help them develop?
The truth is that children today receive very few opportunities to really play. And play is, perhaps, one of the most important aspects to a child’s development, giving them the confidence and skills they need to really succeed, and not just at a desk job, but at life in general.
Even as early as the 1970s, experts were beginning to see the need to give children a chance to play, recognizing that schools and playgrounds offered very little when it came to creativity, imagination and, most importantly, risk taking.
Today, with the push to perform better on standardized tests and to improve international rankings in subjects like math and science, kids have even less time to really play. And, when they are offered chances to be outdoors, it usually comes with a hefty price tag, uniforms, and drills, priming children even as young as five to be the next great high school, collegiate, or professional athlete.
All of this, of course, is fine and good until it consumes your child’s life, giving them zero opportunities to get dirty, imagine, and play creatively without adults managing their every move.
Thankfully, there’s a movement happening around the world, one started by those same experts in the 1970s, that is helping children rediscover the art of play.
Known as “Adventure Playgrounds,” these seemingly chaotic or messy spaces are actually bona fide kid therapy, reintroducing children to skills that are otherwise left unpracticed, such as managing risk taking, actively solving problems, and building self-confidence and pride that comes with the freedom to create.
Created with loose parts so that children can build freely, adventure playgrounds typically include things that, at first, may startle some parents, such as real tools and lighters. But, through these potential risks, children discover an intelligence that allows them to manage what they take on, choosing activities that feel possible based on their own capabilities.
Seeing a child playing with a saw in order to create a wall for a fort make can make any caring adult uncomfortable.
But it’s through these opportunities, all within a controlled environment that has been cleared by “playworkers” to ensure there are no hazards, or dangerous elements that children are unaware of, that your child develops real-world skills, ones they need to not only keep them on the right track as they get older, but also ones that are necessary for making a real difference in the world.