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Free to be me: the importance of play friendly communities for childhood wellbeing

This quarter, staff at the Pathways to Resilience have been exploring the impact of play friendly communities on children’s well-being. As part of the Logan Communities for Children collective vision for children’s wellbeing, we were invited by Hyahno Moser from the Australian Institute of Play, to visit their site at Joomunjie Land. Located at Eagleby South State School, Joomunjie Land is described as, “an imaginative play space, here children just play, be creative and have fun”. Through the lens of neuroscience Play is key for children’s development, as it promotes creativity, self-confidence, imagination as well as enhancing children’s cognitive and emotional strength. On our visit we were privileged to be shown around by the children and hear their perspectives on the impact of the play space on their own wellbeing. What we witnessed Using the 3 ‘Rs’- Regulate, Relate and Reason we were able to map how children described Joomunjie Land as a play space that enriched their wellbeing. The latest research in neuroscience suggests that play is vital to the well-being of children as it helps them feel safe, connected and in control of their own learning, particularly when it is child-led. Using the lens of the 3 ‘Rs”, the following examples are drawn from the perspectives of the children: Regulation Play helps children regulate their emotions, as it allows them the time and space to listen to their own bodies and follow their intrinsic urges to move in ways that best support their needs. Having a safe place to play, provides children with a safe environment; however, risky play is also important as it allows children to learn how to be excited and how to calm back down.

Children's Perspective: "It is a place to be calm, feel calm, it's safe"



Relate

The lens of Relate is about the connection to others and relationships with their environment. Joomunjie Land enables children to feel a sense of belonging. Rather than trying to ‘fit in’ and having to change who you are to feel connected, children are able to be their authentic selves, using playful expressions to connect deeply with others.



Children's Perspective: "We can be risky"


Children's Perspective: "It allowed me to be me, the real me"


Reason

The lens of Reason is about curiosity and learning. This child-led and co-designed area of Joomunjie Land consists of loose parts which are recycled and open-ended materials that the children can use in any way they choose. It allows them a space to achieve and be successful within the school setting, and outside of the classroom. It affords a sense of confidence where children’s problem solving, creativity and imagination abound!



Children's Perspective: "It's a kids' space to hang out in the way we want"


Learnings

Sometimes as adults we get so caught up in life that we forget how important it is to allow children the opportunity to explore and play freely without adult intervention. The latest understandings of brain development suggest that providing a safe and engaging environment allows children to take ownership of their own interests and desires. When we allow them to build on their innate need to move freely, children can build relationships and connect with others and be successful learners. Our visit to Joomunjie Land was a wonderful example of a Play Friendly Community, which from the perspectives of the children, has a positive impact on their health, development and wellbeing. A space we would say, where they could regulate, relate and reason and a space where they would say, “I’m free to be me”.

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