I came across a wonderful article, study, video and approach to children’s play today and had to share it with you.
Not only did I think re-wilding our kids a wonderful concept but it made me feel nostalgic for my childhood. I recognized my schooling and my play time in the video and in the culture of play at the school.
My school yard looked like this one and my teachers and my parents would say, “If you got yourself up there, you can get yourself down”.
We often say that kids today have so much compared to when we were kids, but I believe they have nothing. The video says it all and I recommend you taking 5 minutes from your busy day to watch it.
At a time when many children are over-policed and over-protected, even parents who are open to the idea of rewilding may wonder what would happen if young ones were allowed to truly run rampant.
Contrary to the descent into savagery envisioned in William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies, one primary school is proving that when children are given the space and permission to self organise the results are extremely encouraging.
The No Rules School
Three years ago a primary school on New Zealand’s north island was approached by Auckland University of Technology’s Professor Grant Schofield to participate in a study on playtime behaviour.
It agreed to embark on a radical experiment. What would happen if they reduced restrictions during playtime?
“We didn’t say ‘no you can’t do that’ we just turned a blind eye,” says Swanson School Principal Bruce McLachlan, “Over a period of time we turned a blind eye to everything because actually nothing that the kids were doing was a problem”.
Today there are no rules for students during play breaks in the schoolyard. Oh, except for one “Kids aren’t allowed to kill anyone”.
“The real problem is mollycoddling […] The birth of helicopter parenting, the need to wrap our kids up in cotton wool and not give them an opportunity to hurt themselves. When you do that, for the very best of reasons, you’re actually taking away a lot of learning opportunities for kids,” says McLachlan.
So, what happens when kids play on their own terms?
Over the last three years concentration and confidence is up in the classroom, incidents of bullying are way down at Swanson School and – somewhat surprisingly – with children exercising self-control, injuries are far fewer.
What has happened in American Culture that we no longer allow kids to be kids. We bemoan the use of electronics but as we have removed unrestricted play what else do they have?
In our fear of our children hurting themselves we have created a generation that is obese and bored with hyperactive brains. They get into trouble and we rescue them so quickly that they have not learned to a) not do it in the first place and b) rescue themselves.
There are multiple reasons for our behavior but the high cost of medical treatment and the fear of being sued by another parent is what, I believe, has turned American parents in to jailors and chauffeurs. That’s all we are nervous Jailors and Chauffeurs.