Nature, Children and Play

Nature, Children and Play
In today’s world, children are very restricted. There is no such thing as ‘free’ play anymore. Children are no longer allowed to play on pavements, streets, alleys and vacant plots.
Contact with nature is central to the educational curriculum in alternative schools
- Marika Tabone

It is no longer safe for children to wander off alone. Many children are no longer allowed to roam their neighbourhoods unless accompanied by adults.

Moreover, some working parents cannot supervise their children after school and, as a result, children have to stay indoors or attend supervised after-school activities. Children’s lives have become structured and scheduled by adults who think they are acting in their children’s best interest. These adults are convinced that sending their children to private lessons after school will make them more successful as adults.

Unfortunately, even schoolyards are not designed to promote a natural playing environment for children. The surplus energy theory, developed by 19th-century psychologist Herbert Spencer, may have contributed to this.

According to this theory, the main purpose for children’s play is to get rid of surplus energy. Although the theory was rejected by resear­chers and developmental theorists, it still influenced the design of children’s outdoor school environments.

As a result of Spencer’s theory, schoolyards are seen as areas for physical play during breaks and sporting activities, where children ‘burn off steam’, and not as a means of providing rich educational opportunities, particularly in the area of social skills and environmental learning.

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