Freedom to Play

Sometimes as educators we feel pressure to plan educational activities, and our children feel pressure to do these activities.

Teddy and Harry grasshopper hunting.
Teddy and Harry grasshopper hunting.

Searching For Grasshoppers

Today we went for a walk in a remote area near the River Lune in the English county of Lancashire. By following a public footpath through a field of sheep, across a bridge and over a stile, we finally entered an area of long grass. Here we heard the most wonderful sounds: the song of birds, the leaves rustling in the wind and the chirping of grasshoppers.

I cannot remember the last time we heard the sounds of grasshoppers, it felt like we had discovered a hidden treasure. The boys slowly crept through the long grass, listening and tracking the location of grasshoppers. When they were close enough to see one, they just watched and waited for it to take a jump. This became a great tracking game for them as they hid amongst the grass and followed their senses to search for this noisy insect.

When we arrived home, it proved to be a wonderful opportunity to get out our nature encyclopaedia and learn more about 1 . Did you know that grasshoppers’ ears are on their bellies? This allows the grasshopper to hear the songs of its fellow grasshoppers through the rustling grass.

Boys playing by our local stream.
Boys playing by our local stream.

Exploring The Stream

Another favourite spot for us is a nearby stream. It can be gushing in autumn and winter but in the dryness of summer the stream is very shallow. Teddy and Harry love exploring here. A favourite game is to race different items of nature down the stream to see which travels faster. They slowly race sticks, flowers, leaves and even on occasion, feathers.

I love the way they do not need any outside influences in this type of play. I can sit and read while Harry and Teddy use materials they find in nature. Harry often brings home a collection of treasures which he uses to create sculptures and various artworks. I help by providing the materials he needs for this – usually air-dry clay. Our paints are on a low shelf where he can easily reach and manage it himself. As much as possible I leave him to try out his ideas without interruption and allow him to express himself freely in this way.

Did you know that grasshoppers’ ears are on their bellies? This allows the grasshopper to hear the songs of its fellow grasshoppers through the rustling grass.

Harry creating art in nature.
Harry creating art in nature.

Playing With Friends

We spend a lot of time meeting up with other families and giving our children the time to play together. They play with children of different genders and ages. They inspire each other, spark imagination and learn from one another. The children collectively create their own rules for play, showing an understanding for fairness, cooperation and team work. I’ve even seen them make democratic votes to finalise their decisions.

We recently went to a rocky beach with a group of friends where the children all became geologists! We discovered a cave in the side of the rocks along the beach. This led the children to explore their surroundings and imagination. They all used hard rocks to chip away at other softer rocks, searching for gemstones. By the time we left they each had quite a collection of rocks which appeared to sparkle with little crystals. Teddy even believed he found a fossil. What do you think?

Teddy's fossil found in a cave.
Teddy's fossil found in a cave.

Freedom To Grow

When the boys are engrossed in this type of play, I know they are at their happiest. They are immersed in another world which only they understand. They are completely free to play, to learn, to discover and explore, free from inhibitions, expectations and judgements.

I believe this is the greatest gift we can give our children, is the freedom to discover who they are and to support them in becoming confident and independent young people.

Harry making shoe art!
Harry making shoe art!

Freedom To Play

All children enjoy different types of play. Sometimes as educators we feel pressure to plan educational activities and our children feel pressure to do these activities. I created Hands-On Education with the view to provide children with opportunities to meet the standards within the national curriculum in a playful and fun way. There is not a wrong approach to these activities and the outcome will vary according to your child’s interest and interpretation.

We hope that your summer is filled with plenty of play. Thank you for joining us on this journey.

Discover Related Topics

Try out these topics, all of which have an element of play and exploration.

Key Stage One
Art In Action

The boys playing with paint.

Key Stage One
Art In Nature

Music with scarfs and chaos.

Lower Key Stage Two
Fossils

How fossils are made.

Lower Key Stage Two
Rocks & Soil

Looking closely at rocks.