So, last week I lived in the lovely city of Cardiff in Wales where I represented Eureka! at the IPA World Conference. Now, I’ve never really been to a conference before, not for a full week anyway, so I didn’t really know what to expect and it was all a little bit daunting.
The conference was held in Cardiff City Hall and it was huge. There must have been about 600 people attending from all over the world who all seemed to know each other somehow, and me, in the middle, alone, not knowing what to do… yeah…
But IPA had a secret weapon for this very situation. They had free coffee (or tea) and cake, and let me tell you, coffee and cake is a great ice breaker, and even more so when it’s free :)
So I made some friends and we headed to the opening ceremony where we heard speeches from the First Minister of Wales and the IPA World President. The rest of the day, and indeed the week, were up to us. There were loads of seminars being given by play work practitioners from all over the world, some of which I’d heard of, and others that I’d not.
|Children helping with demonstrations at the IPA Conference|
I’d been a good boy and already decided which seminars I was going to attend before going, so another free coffee (and cake) later and I was in my first seminar. This was pretty much the pattern for the rest of the week, seminar, coffee, seminar, coffee etc…
Now if I wanted to keep writing for ages I’d go into details on each of the seminars, who the speaker was and what point they were making and what I brought back with me to Eureka!, but that would be incredibly boring, so I’ll just kind of do a summing up of what I figured were the most important points (for me anyway) of the week.
So I guess these are the two most important things:
1. Children need to experience risk during their play. I remember when I was a child, I was always climbing trees, making rope swings, making dens etc… I was always seeing if I could reach the next branch up, or swinging higher, and constantly pushing myself to beat what I’d achieved before. So I might have fallen once or twice but who cared, I learnt to be careful. More and more children today are losing the element of risk in their play. If there is no risk involved, then the child won’t learn what it means to take a risk, to fail, and to succeed in that risk. We can’t forever be cushioning everything. Children need to graze their knees every once in a while. We need to promote risk management, not risk aversion, and realize the benefits of risk taking.
|Children climbing a tree at the IPA Conference|
2. Children need to experience nature. More and more children are not getting to experience nature. I sat in on a couple of seminars about ‘Forest Schools’. A Forest School is an area of forest where children are invited to spend one day a week exploring the forest. All with adult supervision, the children can make things using real tools, cook their own food over an open fire, explore, climb, balance and really do whatever they want to. Now, I know that not everywhere has access to a Forest School, but that doesn’t mean that we should shy away from incorporating an element of nature in to play. In my opinion, children are now being brought up in a world of plastic; action figures, video games, plastic play equipment etc… Why don’t we ditch the plastic and use some wood for a change?
I could go on but I think you get the gist. I’ve learned much more than just this, but I can’t really blog about it all. It would take ages.
Anyways, on the last day we all went to a Play Festival accompanied by one of the local schools. There were tree climbing, rope swings, water fights, crafts, singing and more.
Ben Guilfoyle is the Specialist Play Enabler