Strange New World :PATH Newsletter


Picture this. A country in which 40% of children from reception classes upwards have no playtime in their school day. Where the children in nurseries are doing academic work, tiny children working at learning in a curriculum that is not play based. There are one or two adventure playgrounds, in the whole country and there is no profession of playwork.
This is a country where parents direct their children’s play, where mud is called dirt and where playing with fire or water is taboo. If your child trips on a bent metal fixed equipment play site, then you sue. Playgrounds are so safe that they are of no interest. A country where there is loads of space and wilderness areas, that children do not use. This country gets upset with its children because they seem not to know how to play anymore.
This country has not signed up for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which contains that open sesame phrase ’every child has the right to play’.
I discovered this country by accident.
I discovered that there are really good people here who want to put all this massive play deprivation right. I also discovered that this country is in desperate need of an injection of infinite rules, of quirkiness and messiness and time spent just playing.
I discovered that they wanted some help in setting this to rights and that they wanted my help to do it.
Strange and odd this.
So I have been working there. PATH has supported me to do this. And I go, and I tell them stories. I unlock the memories of the adult’s stories of playing. I run play sessions with children who have never experienced unadulterated play before in their lives. To the grownups it seems like alchemy. A magical power. A route to a deep and ancient mystery.
What I am doing is play working as you all do. Telling them stories of the work that you do on site, on dead and bombed out homes, or in parks or estates or mosques. Your work is a touchstone to this play deprived nation.
The country is America.
And it is, in my view the country that most needs to re-establish its relationship with the play of children, because without the creativity, and shared space and time of childhood play a country becomes devoid of the capacity to empathise and act with imagination and lateral thinking. It becomes a place that acts without thought or effective opposition.
Your work is directly affecting the lives of children within the United States of America. Your playing is being rolled out, through stories and actions to the place where it can effect most change.
So if I am away from my desk, it does not mean that I have lost interest in your work. Not at all. It means that I am in Manhattan or Chicago or Washington DC or Detroit or San Francisco, telling the good people there about the amazing stuff of play and playwork that you are all doing every day.
And they are listening.
They are re-learning what they have lost, from you.
One day we will all be glad of this I think.
Thank you all.

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