Saturday, November 26, 2016

Creativity-Fostering Playgrounds

Recess provides children with a break from the classroom. It allows them to build social skills and improve their physical fitness. The fresh air does them good. These are just a few of the many reasons given that support the inclusion of recess in a child's school day. Here's another one: playing outdoors with other kids promotes creativity... or does it?

Image used with permission from Glowman on pixabay

As we have been talking about in my Visual Literacy class, creativity is absolutely essential to children's development; in fact, it's one of the universal constructs of the Iowa Core. Creativity is constantly cited as a skill that employers value most in their applicants as well, so its benefits extend beyond the classroom. Therefore, it is essential that we, as educators, ensure that our students are provided access to many opportunities to boost their creative prowess. And if recess is one of the activities that we continue to cite for creativity development, we must be sure that recess provides a creative environment for the kids.

This issue was brought to my attention by "The Overprotected Kid," an article I stumbled upon from The Atlantic. The article discusses a type of playground (more popular in the UK than the US) in which there are moveable items and materials to experiment and play with instead of large playground equipment. Take a look at the short video below for an example of this type of playground, called The Land.

As you can see, this playground sparks ingenuity. The kids are able to use materials and tools to repurpose items according to their unique ideas. They are able to do this with very little supervision from adults; there are keepers who prevent the kids from causing true harm, but the actions the kids can take are almost limitless. While I believe kids can build their creativity through the playgrounds we are familiar with (including the typical swing set, slide, and maybe even monkey bars), the options are not nearly as free as they are on playgrounds such as The Land.

In response to the need to promote freer active play, there are efforts to bring about loose-parts playgrounds in the United States. Imagination Playground (as shown in the video below), is one example.

There are some amazing playgrounds in existence. However, I believe that if we are going to be committed to fostering creativity in our children, we need to do better. These innovative, loose parts playgrounds might be the answer. What are your thoughts? Do you think we could ever have playgrounds like The Land in the US? Or should we be advocating for options such as Imagination Playground? Please share in the comments!

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