When children explore with process based activities it is hard for our adult, product-driven mindsets to follow. The main reason is because it isn't tied to an adult-led outcome. However, this doesn't mean that there is no outcome. The learning is literally in the process! Children are innately curious and sensory rich activities like the one pictured above enhance foundational skills such as focus, initiative, curiosity and persistence. And if we truly value these skills, we should be providing opportunities for our children to get messy and learn!
The term "unstructured" can be misleading when it comes to the games that children play. In truth, it is very complex with rules, systems, and roles and all of this is done without the organization or input of an adult. This type of play is critical in shaping divergent thinkers and learning and it is the child who scaffolds this unconventional learning amongst their peers. So the next time you see a group of children playing a game, quietly tune in. The things you observe are sure to surprise you.
The general consensus is that play involving weapons- drawn, pretend, or physical as shown in the picture- is an expression of violence and is not an acceptable form of play. But we need to dig deeper to find out what this play is all about. I'm writing a book all about it with my good good friend and fellow child advocate, Samuel Broaden in order to shine a light on why this play needs to be reconsidered in early childhood spaces and it's a conversation worthy of discussion. Stay tuned!
Another issue with process play such as the glue exploration seen above is it is often seen as wasteful and can also activate feelings of inequity. While those are valid reasons to be mindful in your environment, it should not be eliminated from their play. The grip development, fine motor planning, hand-eye coordination, analyzation or objects, sensory engagement through touch & texture and language acquisition make this type of play worthy or an Educators consideration.
There are so many adult-centered taboos attached to a child's development. Unspoken rules based what is polite, proper, and what is socially acceptable. Those unspoken rules shaped our worldview, but a child's development is hindered when our worldview prohibits the body from doing what it needs to do to connect with the brain. Spinning, jumping, going up the slide, negotiating, taking both physical and social emotional risks, and movement in general is a necessary part of development and it is crucial that we make space for the child's mind and body to communicate as they were designed..
Beyond laying the groundwork for environmental stewardship, some of the benefits of nature play include but aren't limited to: physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development When nature is a child's learning environment, they are free to develop agency and autonomy. This naturally lends itself to taking risks , and risks establishes trust of self the environment and others. Trust builds confidence so being outside meets a whole lot of needs! Nature is also restorative, and what we all know as adults who survived a global pandemic is that the world needs all the healing that it can get! And don't think that nature play is exclusive-Nature is for everyone and can be found or created in your unique safe place.
Kid Crew's Outdoor adventures and thoughtful approach to community partnership received a mention in The Collaboration for Early Childhood's monthly newsletter. Click the button below to see the entire article.
Every child should have the opportunity to play outdoors safely without limiting that play to days/seasons with good weather. So I was thrilled to find out that we were the recipients for a mini grant that will provide weather appropriate gear to all enrolled gear ensuring the adventures continue all year 'round!