Don’t know what to do with your children during school holidays? Here is an idea that allows children to play more everyday in a new fun and engaging way.
The original idea of playing city stems from Munich, Germany, where a group of passionate play enthusiast came together in August 1979 in order to enable meaningful play opportunities for children during school holidays. The concept has been successful not just in Munich or Berlin, but similar approaches were taken up in Austria, Denmark, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Egypt, Italy and Japan. However, no Australian child has yet experienced anything like this. In essence playing city under the name of Mini- Munich or FEZitty Berlin, is a grassroots full-time pop-up play activity throughout the school break period, where children simulate a real city experience with all its associated complexities and challenges. In order to participate, children have to register in the immigration office where they receive a city pass. In the job centre they can apply different tasks. They can select from a range of 500 jobs across 35 different disciplines. Farmers, water engineers, wood worker, bakers, jewellery designers, journalists, builders, artists and other occupations can be experienced first hand. Children from 6 to 14 years of age can engage in immersive exploration, research, work earning their own currency (Wuhlis called in Berlin or MiMüs in Munich).
The high degree of autonomy and self-organising is generated through active role play, child led, and sense of agency on the importance of play for valuable and meaningful experiences for life. Over time the city develops all necessary service functions required to enact a city that empowers children. There are also some basic rules to be followed and in worst case (theft or fighting) the child will be expelled from the city. Places for political discourse, cinemas, grocery shops, banks, university and many meeting places emerge over time. If a child is a proactive member of the city, then they become Full citizen of the city once they successfully completed a “Zoffkurs”. This educational journey where they learn about human ethics enables the child to be elected to govern the city. Further, adults are only permitted with a “parent visa” and is valid for maximum one hour. In addition, adults being granted access to a restricted area in the city, called “parent café”. Gerd Grüneisl and Wolfgang Zacharisas created a practical guidebook on the City for children in 1989 now waiting to be applied in the Australian context.
Financed is the concept every year by the local and state government. Play city became a nationwide iconic project for cultural pedagogy. For example, Mini- Munich attracted over 15 days of play around 32,000 children. The Berlin FEZZitty even collaborates with the ecological farmers association in which children learn how to look after 120 real chickens over a 6 week-long period. Of course, the eggs harvested go back into the circular economy of the city and contribute to their own culinary cultural experience. The second hand fair trade provides an additional opportunity to earn the children currency and invest surplus to promote right to play, article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Gerd Grüneisl, Wolfgang Zacharias (Hrsg.): Die Kinderstadt – eine Schule des Lebens. Handbuch für Spiel, Kultur, Umwelt. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1989, ISBN 3-499-18595-4.