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Re-launch 2018

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The Importance of Play for Children

A while back I visited the Westgarth Bush Kinda. A program that for a half a day each week takes the kindergarten into some local bushland. It was a cold and wintery and wet day but the children were all dressed in gumboots and warm clothing and, unlike me, seemed oblivious to the weather.

It was fantastic to see them just play. There were no manufactured games or equipment – only what the kids could find on the ground and in their imaginations. I watched quietly for an hour as they invented games, jumped in puddles and built cubby houses out of sticks and branches they found lying on the ground.Playing in leaves 2 web

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK has recognized the importance of play for children and the potential for unreasonable concerns over safety to negatively impact on opportunities for play and some time ago released a statement called "Children's play and leisure: promoting a balanced approach".This statement makes clear that:

  • Play is important for children's well-being and development
  • When planning and providing play opportunities, the goal is not to eliminate risk, but to weigh up the risks and benefits
  • Those providing play opportunities should focus on controlling the real risks, while securing or increasing the benefits – not on the paperwork
  • Accidents and mistakes happen during play – but fear of litigation and prosecution has been blown out of proportion.

Tim Gill, a UK based academic who has written widely on the benefits of play for children and who as spoken in Australia a number of times in the past few years, responded to this statement in his blog at 'Rethinking Childhood' by saying that:  "The statement starts with a thumbs-up for adventurous, challenging play. It says that play allows children and young people to "explore and understand their abilities; helps them to learn and develop; and exposes them to the realities of the world in which they will live, which is a world not free from risk but rather one where risk is ever present." It recognises that "children will often be exposed to play environments which, whilst well-managed, carry a degree of risk and sometimes potential danger." And it encourages schools, councils and others to "deal with risk responsibly, sensibly and proportionately."

It is important that we take a similar big picture view of the development of children and that we start to see better responses than the current approach which often seems to be overly risk averse.We need to encourage children to explore and play and we believe the Great Aussie Camp Out provides a fantastic opportunity to do just that – get on board and register now!

David Petherick
Australian Camps Association
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