Play and playfulness

Perhaps I have been too allusive in recent posts on EYFS, and perhaps this is a symptom of being away from the classroom  too long – too far away from the stories shared with chidlren, the time we found a mouse’s nest, the cafe where the food was made of sand from the sand pit.  When I included here a quotation from Evangelou et al to the effect that “the art of early years practice is getting the balance right between guided and self initiated learning, either in homes or in settings” I ought to have gone further, and maybe nailed my colours to the mast.  Here, then are some more quotations to think about.
In Sue Rogers’ chapter on “Powerful Pedagogies” (in Liz Brooker and Sue Edwards’ Engaging Play) she suggests, for example that

The coupling of play with pedagogy is in many ways a deeply problematic enterprise for at least three reasons [I’m quoting just the first two here]: first, because traditionally, the concept of play has been positioned in marked opposition to its apparently more worthwhile counterpart, work. This divuision is marked not simply by the ways in which play is often relegated to specific times and places but also in the ways inn which it is regarded in practice as a marginal and recreational activity removed from the real business of the early childhood classroom. Second the pedagogization of play (pedagogy of play) has meant that play has increasingly become an instrument for learning adult competencies.

And Deborah Albon’s chapter on Playing for Real (in Janet Moyles’ Thinking about Play) starts to draw to a conclusion with these remarks:

…I do not believe there are easy answers; indeed I am suspicious of ‘easy answers’ to complex areas of practice. But I do believe the questions are important to reflect on and constantly revisit as team. This points to a need for reflective classroom discussions about play in early childhood settings that go way beyond planning meetings merely listing the resources that might be added to an area in order to organize and encourage children’s play or that discuss observations of children’s play without reflecting on the role practitioners could play in extending or, indeed, inhibiting that play.

So here’s me not being allusive:
The richest times I have seen children have in school have rarely been in the gift of the adult, except indirectly. That’s not to say that there wasn’t learning there – my observations at the time suggested the opposite – or that learning didn’t take place in opportunities I created, but simply that those times which I remember best from working with young children are those in which children seem motivated and involved in a project that has only incidentally been about their learning something I have chosen. They have been afternoons with time machines, days with dens, improvised pulleys and rope swings, funerals for dolls, and the time that mouse came out from under a paving slab.

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