The session started as all our sessions do. Children running over to our van to see what goodies we brought for them to play with and what craft activity we had on offer. With the session underway, some children were doing craft and others were playing with ‘loose parts’.
At some point during this it was decided that the children would fill one of the play barrels to brim with leaves, and once full, they asked us to tip them out. Unfortunately they were too tightly packed, so children started pulling the leaves out by hand into a pile on the floor; one child decided to lie underneath the falling leaves and slowly started to get buried, laughing very loudly between spitting wet leaves from his face. Soon he was covered completely apart from his face (maybe it resembled being buried on the beach) – his friend looked over and then demanded he be buried alongside his mate. They both lay down and were slowly buried by the remaining children and ‘us’ of course.
It soon became apparent that it was not the playful ‘loose parts’ equipment we had brought that the children were interested in – it was the leaves!…. Leaves?? Soggy old leaves – they cost nothing, they aren’t shiny, they aren’t expensive and they don’t plug into the mains. In fact they are a bit yukky. I should know as I had several of them thrown in my face. It only proves the point that children know what, when, how and why they want to play. We as adults can spend our lives assuming we know what’s best for children and their play opportunities and trying to facilitate it, but deep down the children truly know what they want.
We took several pictures of this to share amongst our members and fans of our organisation, especially in recent light of the news articles regarding schools banning children from touching leaves. This picture was put on our Facebook page and it soon became our most viewed and commented-on post.
We were surprised, though, that not all comments were positive ones, as we received comments such as ‘most shocking picture I have ever seen’ to ‘with recent news regarding missing children in the press’. The comments shook us a bit, as we saw it as just a photo of children playing in the leaves, making the most of their natural environment. What do you think….?
CJ is Play Services Manager at Milton Keynes Play Association (MKPA).