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Part 1: 2021 Childhood Summit - WHY So Much Focus on Play?

Writer, Johann Christoph Arnold sums it up beautifully “This fast-paced world is changing rapidly, and we are dragging those most vulnerable, our children, along for the ride, with little consideration and expecting them to adapt.”

I am a Father of four children and a neighbour to about 35 local children. I really struggle with the changes to modern childhood; shrinking of their horizons, fear-based reactionary decisions made for children from parents and all gatekeepers to play, decentralising of family, constant surveillance, lack of privacy for children, and even larger constant push for progress measured by economic growth. Some may say this is just nostalgia, and I should let go of the past, and move on. I prefer to see nostalgia as the recognition that something important is about to be lost. In the context of this discussion, it is children’s health and wellbeing, that is supported by access to freedom, fun, friends, and fluency or put in much more simple terms – CHILD-LED FREE PLAY.

I weigh-up my children’s worlds against the backdrop of my childhood and a much simpler society. A neighbourhood full of adventures and friends, fun, freedom, and fluency (challenge and mastery). This is my baseline from which I weigh up all childhoods. There is a growing gap between the structure of our daily lives and the potential for children to achieve wellness. What this means is that just by the way our day-to-day lives have been structured i.e., work, outside school hour care, travel, day care, both parents working, stigma of unsupervised play, extracurricular activities, this creates huge challenges for children to achieve wellness and life satisfaction.

The Childhood Summit is a dedicated time set aside for us Grown-Ups to stop, pause, and delve into the question ‘How are the children doing?’ The Childhood Summit makes it a priority to hear directly from children on issues important to them.

With intelligence and empathy, we pause to see the world through the eyes of a modern child. Taking time to examine the worlds us Grown-Ups have created; the spaces, programs, communities, houses, laws, regulations, policies, streets, parks, shops, schools. Then ask the question; are they serving children in ways that are important to them? Are they supporting children to grow, or impeding their development? What are we doing well? Where are we falling short? What do we need to change? What do children see as the solutions? This is the role of the Childhood Summit.

Uniquely, the 2021 event will focus on the innovative city-wide efforts of one Australian community. A community where many groups of people are going to great lengths to increase the quantity and quality of opportunities for children to Play. These eff

orts are happening across the schools, early childhood centres, commercial operations, outside school hour care providers, community centres, local parks, and even neighbourhood streets. The initial results are very positive, and not just for the children, for most of the community. This is a population-scale-effort to increase the Play-ability of a community and correspondingly, the health of the community. All this is achieved through increasing Play.

The community stories unpacked at this year’s summit will fill hearts with inspiration while demonstrating that by focusing on Play and our children we can create a city-wide narrative to be proud of. If we ask ourselves the question ‘How are the children doing?’ and to honestly respond “they children are doing well”. This is a fantastic feeling.

Find out more go to

References, for more information


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