New Year’s Revolutions

There’s another of those uncredited lines running around my head, that children playing out is both sign of and catalyst for healthy communities.

It sure feels true, doesn’t it?  When we see children playing outside, we can assume that people know their neighbors, there there is confidence in the safety of public space and a general acceptance of children’s presence.  In communities where children do not play out, we often see a spiral of suspicion, repression, conflict, trauma and reaction.  Something similar happens with adult play – we know what follows when societies suppress art, literature, comedy and dance.  Healthy communities hold a place for participation, imagination and dissent from citizens of all ages.

2016 gave us a lot to process, and I’m glad to be starting the New Year by teaching a winter term course at Middlebury College, titled “Children’s Play as Social Subversion”.  My abstract promises that:

In this course, we will look at historical and cultural interpretations of children’s play in anthropology, psychology, anarchist theory, the “new sociologies of childhood” and the UK-based field of playwork. We will investigate systems of power and control acting upon children’s time, space and freedom, and play’s intersection with issues of gender, race, class and neurodiversity. Through readings, written work and practical assignments, we will establish a rich understanding of play, exploring and moving beyond the conventional fixed equipment playgrounds which have been called “ghettoes for play” to critically examine material and social environments children create for themselves.

This is all pretty thrilling, but I’ve been embarrassed by my struggle to assemble a reading list that reflects the diversity of the field.  Other than the playwork ‘classics’, what should I be reading and sharing with people newly interested in play and children’s rights?  What readings or concepts have inspired you to think differently, feel more deeply?

And if you’re looking for more ways to play in your 2017, keep an eye on this…


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