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The Importance of Play

Most people would agree that children need time to play and spaces to play in, to discover themselves, and to explore the world. Child development is inextricably linked to the way in which they play, create, and interact with the world around them, and if you watch children for any amount of time, it is not difficult to see how they use play to process things, to enact everyday life, and to learn. For example, a child with a play kitchen will recreate the idea of cooking, serving food, washing up, etc., even from a very young age.

What we do not always think about, however, is the way in which our surroundings can affect children in their everyday lives. City and town spaces, supermarkets, shops, laundrettes, buses, and many other aspects of their lives do not incorporate or consider children to a large extent; while dentists and doctors do provide books and toys, most spaces which children will encounter do not. Certainly, there are designated play areas for children to visit, but it may not always be practical for them to visit these, and there is a need to look at greater cohesion between adult spaces and child spaces. Increasingly, people are examining ways of better tailoring buildings and even whole cities to meet the needs of the little people using them.

For example, it is unlikely that most children relish the idea of going to the supermarket; it’s a chore which must be done, and yet it is one which often results in frustration and boredom on the part of the child, which in turn makes it more of a trial for the adult. If supermarkets began looking at ways to include things to engage children, kids might be able to see the weekly shopping trip as an extension to play, rather than an interruption to it, making the chore easier for everyone involved.

This is true of many other places which children need to interact with; a boring wait at a bus stop might become a magical adventure if children are given the tools and opportunity to create and engage. A trip to the shoe shop could become a looked-for outing, not a dreaded one. What this concept of better-incorporating play into our everyday lives needs is creativity. It needs us to sit back and reflect upon children and their psychologies, on the spaces they interact with and try to find a way to make these two meet.

Children are inarguably one of the most important parts of society; they are the future, and their development and happiness will shape the course of history in time. Despite this, they are in some ways overlooked, not taken into account in designs or layouts, and given only designated areas where they can play. By extending these areas to more aspects of their lives, we can give children a sense of inclusion, a sense of value, and a feeling of belonging in the world, which will inspire self-confidence and empowerment.

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