Imagine an open and untamed piece of land where children can play freely. In this place, there would be raw materials for children to build their own kind of playground. What might they come up with if given the opportunity to use such materials as wood, rope, paint, pipes, tires, mud as well as a variety of tools?
A trained adult playworker would be on hand to assist and keep things safe, but the children themselves would decide how to play, what to build and how. They could even learn to build a fire, and cook their own food when hungry!
This is the vision shared by all the partners. Together they are working to implement the philosophy at different play opportunities while looking for a permanent location. Anne was initially inspired by watching the documentary Seven Up!, where she saw a European Adventure Playground in action, and she was sparked again by a recent piece on National Public Radio about the resurgence of Adventure Playgrounds. Naomi was also intrigued by the notion, and even has a background in building rope parks and zip lines for children to aid in their development. Kelsey also supports the connection between child- directed play and its role in development and education, having already been interested in forest schools which follows a similar idea about kids freely exploring nature. Lynn has been an advocate for this type of play her entire career.
Children's play is a natural, instinctive drive.
Children are propelled to explore and interact with the physical world around them.
In 2014, Anne and Naomi started the Central Illinois Adventure Playground Community, launched their Facebook page, and developed a community forum. Soon, they began putting together Pop-Up Play events and after school programs, saw immediate interest and received tons of positive feedback. More enthusiasts joined the cause, and they welcomed Kelsey and Lynn as part of the Play Team.
They decided to change the name to KOOP- Kid Owned & Operated Play and make the organization official.
Now they are trying to locate a piece of land and acquire proper funding for their vision, which they see as including events conjunction with local parks and schools.
Benefits of Child-Directed Play
KOOP adventure playground is suitable for children of all ages. Children play under the supervision of playworkers but not through their direction. Children of different ages and diverse backgrounds come together in a shared space where they may freely interact with one another and with nature learning on their own how to work together to problem solve, overcome obstacles, collaborate, and team build. This helps develop a childs sense of community and a space for peer learning.
Play is vital to childhood development. Through play, the children seek answers to questions, realizing their own aims and developing their sense of self. Research shows that children learn best when they are invested in what they are learning or doing. KOOP allows children to move around their play space freely and choose what to explore and what to do. Children then take ownership of their own learning, encouraging self expression, spurring innovation and boosting confidence in their ability to asses and take calculated risks and therefore take responsibility for their actions.
We try our best to offer participants variety of playable spaces including: challenging play structures and features; quiet ‘chill-out’ areas; wild nature and planted areas; water and sand play. We work hard to secure locations where there are also changes of level in landscaping features as well as in built structures by the children. This kind of space encourages movement and allows children to develop fine and gross motor skills while being in nature.
“[Children have a natural] zest for life,
a drive to discover and create and re-create,
a passion for discovery and invention to master the world, understand it,
and experience it at first hand,
to push the boundaries of the known and find out the flavor of newness.
Watch children at play and you will see this in action.”
Playworking allows children to play freely without having to listen or behave according to the ideas and set ways of adults and the adult society. Playworkers choose to intervene as little as possible so the child can exercise his right to be a child and play- based on his own interests and his own motivations unadulterated. The playworker must trust the "innate wisdom of children" (The Playwork Primer) and allow them to play so that the children themselves can integrate their internal and external worlds. The interference of an adult will take these magical opportunities away from the child's growth, development, and basic extinct (as we know, even young animals play). We try to let them keep that so they can be themselves and do by themselves, without unnecessary pressures.
Loose Parts Theory
"Loose parts allow children to take an object that has a loosely defined purpose and use it to be anything that they want for their playing. Thus a cardboard box can be a den or a car or an airplane, a bed or a tortoise shell. Loose parts do exactly the opposite of battery powered toys that require the child only to push a button to send the toy into an ecstasy of beeping and flashing and tinny music. Such toys do the playing while the child is reduced to the passive role of an audience. Play itself, with these toys, is turned into a space of exclusion for children. They’re kept outside the play circle, which is dominated by the moving toy. Loose parts liberate the imagination and creativity of the playing children and allow them to master the world around them in ever-changing ways and communicate more effectively through their playing". (Playwork Primer).