Just this week I moved a few things around in our playroom. As soon as I did this there was a increase in creative play. I find it interesting that this seems to always be the case. Just a little rearranging seems to offset something in our brains enough to get us to think differently- creatively.
Building with cloths has been a focus of play since the rearranging of the room. We are lucky to have two sets of playstands- one I purchased years ago and the other -a craigslist find. I am looking to add a couple more large building clothes so we'll be heading to the thrift store this weekend.
As I watched my two children playing with blankets and making little houses and rooms with two simple supplies- essentially furniture and cloth- I remembered back to my own childhood of fort-making. With all it's simplicity it seems a wonder that fort making has stuck as a consistent form of play through who knows how many generations? Because of this, I imagine fort-making must satisfy something in the child's development and needs. I came across this article on the very subject. Here are a few excerpts:
"Goodenough’s interest in all of this was sparked in 1990 when she was teaching in California and pregnant with her second son, Will. During a lecture one day by environmental psychologist Roger Hart about children’s relationships with the environment, she started thinking about what motivated children to find secret hiding spaces, what she calls “just for me” places.
“There’s an unforgettable thrill of being apart from the rest of the world,” Goodenough says. “It can be modest — hiding in a cupboard or under a chair — but that capacity to be able to look out and not be seen is very powerful.”
Six years later, while on vacation at Pocono Lake in Pennsylvania, without toys or a TV, she and Will spent an afternoon building little huts out of ferns and bark. She started thinking again about secret spaces. Through teaching children’s classics and after talking to other people about their memories of childhood, she decided to pull together a collection of essays, poems, and short stories, called Secret Spaces of Childhood. Joyce Carol Oates and Robert Coles were two of the contributors. She says she was surprised at how varied the pieces were.
“I thought everyone would have the same memory — the blanket over the table or the tree house, but they were all different,” she says. “It’s about developing a sense that’s as unique as we are. What concerns me is that when you take away the choice — you give a child a toy with a single monologue that’s pulled by a string — you take away imagination.”
Luckily, she says her own childhood in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., was full of imagination, thanks in part to the woods behind the house and a family ethos that cherished the outdoors.
“In our family, if you were taking a walk or watching the stars at night, this was considered sacred space,” she says.
As we continue to lose this sense of sacred space, and along with it, free play, Goodenough says it’s a downward spiral for children, documented by research: a rise in stress, diabetes, and obesity, for starters. Children also lose an appreciation for the environment and the opportunity to “find their niche.”
“In our highly programmed, commercial world, down time and away space slip away. Children need the space and time every day to do nothing, so that who they are can grow.”