Yesterday I was in an inner city primary school delivering a project called “Dreaming The Future”. This project works with children to use creativity and play to decide what their ideal future would look like and then start to create an action plan to get things moving in that direction. As part of the session the children look at pictures and decide which are positive and negative and which they would like to include as part of their future.
In this particular workshop I was surprised to see that the children had included this photo above as a negative picture. In part of our discussion over the decisions that they had made I asked why they felt this way about the image of children playing. Some of them felt that the children were too young to play out on their own which I suppose could be considered as a fair comment as the children do look quite young. However, the next responses that I got were less easy to accept.
Most of the children in the group felt that playing outside was dangerous because you may fall and injure yourself. They were also worried that outside was a place that they may get dirty. Another concern was the danger they may face from stangers in the area where they were playing. One of the children was even concerned about wildlife and insects and the possibility that they may injury you.
I have to admit that I was shocked to hear the children talk like this! Although most children are aware of the possible risks of outdoor play their love of the outdoors is so strong that they see past them to the fun that they get from playing. They also tend to think that playing outside is really important, especially without adults around, and think that the future should offer more opportunities for children to get outdoors, get mucky and have fun. These children’s responses got me thinking about what kind of world we are creating if it is one that tells children being outdoors and enjoying themselves is something to be feared and avoided. It also raises significant questions about where children are able to learn about risk, how to take it and how to deal with it themselves if they are not allowed to experience it first hand as part of free but safe play.
If children aren’t allowed to take risks in childhood how will we develop the adult minds that we need for the future? Adults who are confident to have a go at new things, come up with big ideas and take the risks that need to be taken to solve the massive problems that we face as a species.