How can Services ‘Police’ Less and Play More?

By Narelle Nettlebeck.

A friend of mine started work in the Education and Care sector recently and noted 2 very insightful things…

* Educators spend way too much time policing children, to the point of stifling them.

* Children are at their happiest when they are playing.

This is so very true!

When I ask educators to tell me about their childhood, specifically regarding play, these are the answers that are repeated over and over again…

  • Playing outdoors
  • Getting dirty
  • Taking risks
  • Staying out ’til dark
  • Freedom and adventure
  • Fun
  • No adults around!

Wow! Food for thought right? I wonder if all that policing and attention to ‘formal learning’, is actually taking away the JOY of play and sense of freedom? Of course we can’t allow children in our care to be unsupervised like many of us were as we played outside ‘til dark, but we certainly can allow them more uninterrupted time for play and we need to know when to back away and when to step in.

If you work with children, I encourage you to give thought to your interactions with children as they play. Instead of jumping in too quickly, take a minute to watch the child. Ask yourself, ‘does the child need my support and guidance right now?’

Watch for risk, but instead of being too quick to say, ‘don’t or stop or Uh Oh,’ rephrase that to, ‘It looks like you’re up to something interesting! Can you tell me your plans!’ or ‘Do you need my help right now?’

Aim to scaffold thinking and learning by asking, ‘I wonder what would happen if you used the ‘tube’ the other way?’ ‘What do you think will happen if you……’

Support and guide behaviour by being clear about what you need or expect, ‘Tim is using the shovel right now. Can I help you find something else.’ ‘I can’t let you hurt someone else, let’s use our hands to…… instead.’

Educators need to be intentional, deliberate and purposeful in everything we do. I encourage you to reflect on play and policing. Do you need to practice stepping back rather than stepping in? Do you need to work on rephrasing?

Let’s work harder to make childhood fun!