Skip the kindergarten cop routine: free play is vital for young children

The Guardian article by Michael Rosen

Give children the space to express themselves and they’ll learn things that ‘structured learning’ cannot teach

“Free play has at its heart the spirit of “trial and error without fear of failure”. I once watched a very young child in a park approach a low dome that was in the middle of the path. From a distance, someone like a government minister could easily characterise what was going on as purposeless, chaotic and without any learning outcome. It was after all just a child “running around” – literally.

I have a different view. The girl had noticed the dome and decided to do a dance, skipping round and round it and over and over again. As she did so, she made up a song with the words “round” and “roundy-roundy” in it, working variations as she danced. The movement and the singing were created without fear of failure and involved a variety of trial-and-error activities: testing the size and height of the dome, testing the little gradients for their “danceability”, matching her song with the movements and vice versa, expressing the whole thing in words.

I call this “learning”. There’s a lot of cognition going on there, but I would also want to add in what the activity did for her sense of self and wellbeing. She had created something that worked: a fun song-and-dance routine, using the environment (the dome) that she had encountered. She held her arms out, taking up more space than we do when we hold ourselves folded up. It was a physical expression of confidence.”

Full article here