“If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut.”
Not sure if I completely agree with the last part of Einsteins equation but how important is his message that Success is a product of work & play. But what do we mean by ‘Play’.
I had heard the phrase ‘heuristic play’ many times without really understanding it. I think I just heard the word play and ignored the word heuristic as something that had been tagged on to make professionals feel more important about what they do. My background as a psychiatric nurse has perhaps made me a little cynical about fancy titles for simple concepts – as there are a hundred and one different therapies with exotic names, which in practise are little different from each other. The word came up again in a recent discussion about a play strategy for East Lothian. I had to admit my ignorance and asked Maureen Black (East Lothian’s play guru) what it meant and she gave me the following definition.
heu·ris·tic – from the Greek word eureka meaning discovery
Maybe discovery play would be simpler – but it does describe why play is so powerful for learning and why it is so much fun. It also helps me to understand why somebody like Einstein would include play as an essential part of his formula for success. Discovering the world around you using all of your senses to make sense of it, order it, understand how you can interact with it, and change it. Discovering how the universe worked might not have been child’s play, but without being able to play Einstein might not have made such a success of it.
Another play word I have learn recently is – schema.
At an early years conference I listened to some staff from a Midlothian Surestart centre talk about how they had taught other staff the princples of heuristic play. They focused on schemas – this is where children exhibit typical behaviours as they play such as transporting, enveloping, enclosing, assembling, circling, horizontal and vertical displacement. A schema is a pattern of observable behaviour which children display over and over again. This was one of those eureka moment for me as it made sense of my own experience with young children, especially babies and toddlers. What parent has not witnessed a child repeatedly taking an object in and out of another object or a child utterly absorbed in moving things from one place to another an back again. Of course what children are doing as they work through their schemas is discovering their world and making it understandable and coherent
I think I have always understoon play as something that is natural for children – and something they need to be able to do to discover how their world works and where they fit into it. Concepts like heuristic play and schemas help me to understand the very complex things that are going on when children play
Play doesn’t have too cost a lot or need complicated equipment – simple materials like mud is great for play. International mud day on 29th June celebrates outdoor play using natural material. Why not organise an outdoor play session involving mud on around 29th June and share your photos with us. A small grant to help you organise an event can be obtained from Support from the Start – more details and an application form on enclosed.
Just read a facsinating blog from the Health & Safety Executive on the benefits of early years outdoor play in terms of adults having the skills to manage risk safely in the workplace. (Thanks to Sarah Cheyne, ELC architect for signposting)
The blog from Judith Hackett who chairs the Health & Safety executive can be found at this link but below is a snippet from it.
In HSE, we are focused on health and safety in the workplace, but it is clear that attitudes to risk are formed long before young people enter the world of work. Play – and particularly play outdoors – teaches young people how to deal with risk. Without this awareness and learning they are ill equipped to deal with working life. Our health and safety system in Britain requires workplace risks to be managed, not eliminated, and gives people responsibility for their own wellbeing. We simply cannot afford to exclude outdoor play and learning from our children’s education.
Today at Prestonpans Infant School, we started our new Friday afternoon nursery session for young parents and their children under 3 years of age. What a joy it was to welcome a young couple with their 12 day old baby. We are all awed by the fact that this wee lad will be coming to our school to play on Friday afternoons as he grows and develops and comes to nursery then school. What a privilege. Why do we wait till they’re 3? Another single dad came along too and it was great to see the dads chatting about their bairns.
A ray of hope indeed…..
Thank you Ronnie Hill for making this all possible…..
A small group of staff from East & Midlothian went to visit the schools featured in this short video at the invite of Grounds for Learning. The group included a teacher from Whitecraig Primary, and the team leader for a pre-school centre managed by Midlothian Surestart.. Whitecraig and two Suretart centres are now working with GfL to introduce natural loose materials into the playground. A P1 teacher at Wallyford primary is also working with a local artist to find ways of using different materials in their playground area – this time with an emphasis on recycled materials. Excited to see how these projects develop and hope they prove to be exemplars for other schools and pre-school centres in the use of loose materials for more imaginative play opportunities.
The website promotes the use of local resources and people to encourage safe on street play for local children. There are a range of
resources to access, including tips for communities to support safe street play.