Well, there are many sides to the Play-Full story, but I want to focus on agency.
Agency is a specific and unique function of the role of Play in children’s lives. When children come up with the ideas, the games, the rules, the constructions, when children can create their Play, it usually means they will create something meaningful to them, important to them. When children shape their Play, they will often craft an activity with intrinsic meaningful learning woven through it, combined with joy, fun and friends.
Recent research points to role of agency in promoting positive health and wellbeing. Dr Noman Swan, possibly Australia’s most trusted medical advisor emphasises in his new book, 'So You Think You Know What Is Good For You?' the need for agency to achieve wellbeing. Personally, I totally understand this. I constantly seek out agency for myself. I know I feel most positive, invigorated, and inspired about life when I feel a high degree of authorship. The opposite is also true. When my degree of choice, autonomy and self-direction is reduced I feel despondent, negative, and unmotivated. Psychologists call this a level of locus of control.
I guess at the heart of the matter, I am talking about the impact of agency on my mental health, along with the corresponding impact on my physical health. For me, a low degree of agency equals a low motivation and therefore low physical activity. I know am more likely to reach for chocolate when I am uninspired and less likely to go for a walk after work or play with my children when I feel demotivated.
Can I ask something of you at this stage?Pause for a minute and consider the level of agency inherent in modern childhood? Just as a reminder, I am talking about child-led free play, no adults involved. Where do children find agency, choice, autonomy, self-direction, independence, responsibility, and intrinsic motivation? What time and space is afforded to children, by Grown-Ups, to be the directors of their lives?
Now compare this with your childhood. Comparatively speaking, modern childhood is smothered by adult agendas such as; overflowing school work, staying safe, being supervised, staying inside, being kept busy, occupied by distracting devices and being entertained. Low ownership, no movement, low social connection, low enthusiasm, and low health.
What if children had time and space to just simply be, with other children? Time to hang-out with each other, connect, talk, or perhaps play games that they decide on or make-up? Time to build, hone skills they are interested in, on their own terms. Time to talk things through with other children, compare notes, offer friendship and support? Children who are afforded this type of time and space for Play build strength in character, resilience, grow strong interests, strong relationships, strong enthusiasm and strong motivation for living. This is agency and power, owned and grown by children, for themselves, magically facilitated by Grown-Ups.
The 2021 Childhood Summit resulted in 5-Year Play-Action Plans. Founded on local children’s voices, codesigned by community at the summit, these plans will become the tools used to propel a community further towards the mission to make Logan the Most Playful City in the World 😊.
Check them out here: