Helping unlock communication in central Scotland
We rediscovered camping last year – the fairly wild variety – and the kids just loved it. And when you leave behind the toys and screens then the kids start to play in quite a different way – spontaneous, creative, energetic, deeply engaged and making something from well – not very much. Exactly the kind of play opportunities that modern life and schedules can hinder – maybe the play that I (over?)romanticize from my own childhood?
This week got me thinking more about it when I caught up with a (very) long-lost friend from my time in the Netherlands – who now lives in Sydney – it was so good to see her after all this time. She was telling me about a research project that she was involved in a couple of year back called “The Sydney Playground Project“. The basic idea is that the school is supplied with random “left over” objects (milk crates, bread trays, old tyres, pool noodles, buckets) basically the stuff that we all have sitting unused in our garages and outhouses. It was all child-proofed and then …. the magic began …… the kids were just let loose to play as they wished with it.
The photo album gives a great flavour of what was created.
The project has so many benefits – but what really struck me when I spoke to Lina was the benefits that it had for the kids with Social Communication and Interaction Difficulties, those with poorer language skills and those who were on the Autism Spectrum. For the kids who struggle with unstructured times, who find “small talk” and “playground chat” switches them off, who have a deep, rich, creative inner world but struggle to share it with others, who struggle to follow the unwritten rules of socialising – the Playground Project gave a chance to create, to be in the heart of things, to negotiate, to try new things and to have success. The pupil who always spent break in the corridor with his support worker was suddenly in the heart of the playground – outside, active, creating and engaged.
It got me so excited to imagine how this could look for the young people that I work with in nurseries and schools – and all the ways it could support and develop communication.
Maybe this is a next step from Lego Therapy – a chance to create together, a place to build resilience, to plan and negotiate with others, to take risks letting others in and for those rich inner worlds to find expression for that, space to communicate about a shared experience.
I will be raking through my garage later to see what junk we have and try unleashing it in my back garden with the kids this weekend and see where it takes my thinking……..