The Value of Playing

We all know by now, that children learn through play. The EYFS is delivered through structured and unstructured play time with observation and measurable outcomes. Giving young people the freedom to explore and figure things out for themselves is always a far more profitable experience than spoon feeding information and skills.

Unfortunately, we lose this skill as we get older. I don’t know why, but in our society we put far more value in to study, reading, lectures, webinars etc than we do in actually just doing something. Why is that?

I keep reading that the adults who make it in the creative industries are the ones who remember how to explore and experiment. I suppose there has to be truth in that… you can’t have a truly original idea if you’re constantly feeding off other sources.

Equally, there is huge value in making mistakes. Failure is a separate thing. In my eyes, you only fail when you give up. Every mistake is a learning curve. Sometimes something incredible happens that you hadn’t predicted and you realise you have discovered something new! Sometimes you simply learn how NOT to do something. Both have enormous value.

Having my children off school has been a wonderful reminder to me of the value of playing. As adults, we need to spend more time doing this ourselves and not being afraid.

Watching my children dying fabric, spraying it with bleach, stitching in to it and making something they’re proud of, has been a wonderful experience. I love that they have very few boundaries and even those are governed largely by safety and access to resources. Why not try applying bleach with a fork? Why not hang the fabric so everything makes a drip pattern? Why not hang it to dry on the climbing frame so that the ink pools and makes a pattern? Did I think of any of these things…? Nope. They did.

The mind of a child is much less afraid of something being ‘wrong’. It’s true as I see it all the time. The education system trains us to get that green tick next to our work, and even in art lessons that means working to a list of success criteria. If any student tries to deviate, it’s hard to judge and mark the criteria you have set. But it’s that child that goes on their own path that should actually be celebrated. Because… well, who gets anywhere in life by being like everyone else?

I created these two little prints by playing about with media and resources. They’re simple but I adore them. And I completely enjoyed the process because I had no idea what the end product would be. Kinda like going for a walk and happening across a nice pub!

In short, we need to make more risks. Be more free in our thinking and be more childlike in our curiosity.

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