Posted: 24 September, 2018

The Power of Play – Let the adventure begin!

Blog, General, Junior School, News

As we welcome children to a new autumn term, we cannot wait to see their excited faces as they discover a new Junior School playground – one with a strong spirit of adventure.

When faced with the task of building a new playground, it was the desire to encourage imagination, curiosity and physical challenge that informed our decision to create a modern playground with a very courageous soul.

Over the summer, the old playground was transformed, creating areas which welcome pupils to challenge themselves and to enjoy different types of play: exploratory, social, physical and imaginative. Pupils were at the very heart of the decision-making process, sharing ideas and views on how to design an environmentally-friendly, ‘natural’ space, but above all, one where they could take risks and challenge themselves, unafraid to try new things.

Outdoor play has become an emotive issue in recent years. We all know the benefits of playing outside and remember with fondness the rickety slides and swings of our own childhoods. But in the modern world, a tendency to wrap children in cotton wool has meant that outdoor play has too often played second fiddle to the endless virtual temptations that are at children’s fingertips indoors.

It is a basic parental instinct to protect our children from harm. But over recent years, the manner in which children have been allowed to play has changed so dramatically that we are in danger of putting their development at risk. The hypnotic attraction of screens and the seemingly endless visual stimuli that can be accessed through them has meant it has become difficult to entice our children “out to play”. How ironic that our efforts to protect children from the dangers outside of the home have introduced a whole new level of more insidious threat from the indoor, online world.

At Putney we are championing a return to outdoor play, well aware of the host of physical and mental benefits that it brings. Our new playground will not only provide hours of fun, but enable children to learn many of the skills that are essential to human development.

Hanging on ropes and monkey bars not only develops young muscles and improves balance and coordination, but teaches young children about  limits and going beyond them – introducing them to the feelings of curiosity, bravery and confidence that result from achieving something they didn’t even know they could do. Skills which they can use both in and outside the classroom.

Adventurous, risky play allows children to practise the independent reflection and decision-making that they will need in later life. After all, a grazed knee is a far more powerful learning experience than simply being told you might fall over if you do not take care. As adults, the thrill-seekers among us will know that climbing high and whizzing fast can give us a rush of adrenalin that is hard to beat. It should be no surprise then that the same is true for children from a very early age. It is this exposure to risk, and even to feelings of fear, that enable us all to know and to challenge our limits.

The cotton wool approach does no one any favours whereas the benefits of playing with friends in daylight and fresh air are almost too many to list. Learning to co-operate, to explore new possibilities and to invent imaginative games with your friends are essential building blocks in any child’s social development.

Let the games begin!

Pippa Page-Roberts

Head of Junior School

Press enter or esc to cancel