Lately I’ve been reading the poetry of Rainier Marie Rilke and it is nothing short of extraordinary. One of his poems includes these lines:
“I want to unfold. I don’t want to stay folded anywhere, because where I am folded, there I am a lie. I want my grasp of things to be true before you…”
And I can’t think of any better way to sum up education and our role within it. To enable children to unfold before us, to be an ‘authentic educator’, to offer experiences, environments and interactions that truly reveal the ‘who-ness’ of the children before us. Increasingly, it’s how I view our responsibility- we’re not childminders, we’re not teachers, we’re not playworkers: we are directly intertwined with the very shape of identity – the identity of the future is being unfolded in front of us.
Confidence, creativity and autonomy emerge out of the bonds we create with young children and by enabling play we not only enable these in abundance, we also enable the conditions for children to meet struggle and overcome it through exploration, risk-taking and problem solving.
All these things are vital and that is why play is like a co-adventure between children and adults – we meet life together and we rise to it together too. In the moments of stuck-ness we as adults can lend a hand but the adventure is one that children must ultimately face with their own spirit, their own programmed will to play, to make sense of the world and their place within it for themselves.
It’s why it is so critical to keep singing the song of play. It’s not that it’s fun, it’s not that it’s appropriate – it’s bigger than that. It’s scope is reaching into the future, a future that is unknown in the same way that the adventure of play is too.
There is a moral imperative to enable children to play. It’s not ticklist-ism. It’s not engineered experiences to prove. It’s a powerful force that as educators, we need to embrace and bring our own curiosity too. When we do this, it’s my belief that something, just as extraordinary as Rilke’s poetry, happens to us. We come alive ourselves – we live with authenticity, we live with love. And it’s love that truly unfolds us and there’s no better poem that you can write than when love is in your heart and you just see the world for all its possibility of delight and joy…
Greg is a former EY lead and primary school assistant headteacher. His bestselling book ‘Can I Go And Play Now?’ has led him to pursue a role in training and CPD to show other practitioners the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of effective Early Years.
Follow him on Social Media @canigoandplaynow