I remember... After school, I was allowed to play on the playground and hop on my bike. I was allowed to play with my friends outside, where we would run or watch insects crawl by. I remember... During the weekends, my parents would take me to a park or we would feed the ducks. Sometimes we would even go to a petting zoo.
I have fond memories of playing outside. However, I do not live in the Netherlands anymore. I now live in Jakarta, and even though Indonesia is one of the most beautiful places on earth, our children do not get to play outside like I used to do.
My children do not dig holes because there is no sand to dig. They do not get one hour recess to play outside. It is a quick meal and back into class. They don't use leaves, sticks, grass, flowers or pebbles to play shop. Because they rather play with other gadgets at home or they do not have time because of all their homework. They do not play on the outside playground because there is no playground. They do no hop on their bike because I am afraid that something might happen. Traffic in Jakarta is crazy, and everyone drives without rules. They do not go outside to run because there is no safe place to run. They do not go outside to watch insects crawl. Because that insect might just be a mosquito that could bite you and you end up with dengue fever. They do not feed the ducks because there are no ducks to feed. A petting zoo, you say? Never heard of such thing!
As an Early Childhood Educator, I want children to experience what I experienced. So at our Preschool, we make sure that we go outside every day for at least half an hour. But there are no sticks, leaves, flowers, pebbles to play with. Instead, children play with plastic cups and plates. There are no ducks to feed or animals to pet. Instead, children play with a plastic dolly or an animal toy. There are no trees, but there is grass! At least, the children get to run, play with a ball or reach for the sky.
There was a time of freedom and joy, and now I realize how privileged I was to have had such childhood. I will continue to find ways for our Preschool children to play outside and would like to hear ideas from others.
There was a time when play was king and early childhood was its domain (Paley,2004).