The importance of play.

Somehow I managed to get through the whole first term of school without having a rostered yard duty. Yesterday I had my first yard duty of the year. It was a miserable day; cold, windy, rainy. One of those days that you just want to be curled up in the staff room with a coffee and a warm lunch.

The highlight of yard duty is usually the kids that come and chat to you from other classes. It’s not often that you get the opportunity to touch base with children you used to teach, or their brothers and sisters dotted throughout the school. I like yard duty for that reason. It’s also a chance to have a laugh with your students without the pressure of getting a task completed or ensuring the point of your teaching and learning is reached. Schools can be very fast paced places. Yard duty never goes fast. Ever.

While I was hugging my too thin jumper against me I spent a moment pondering the time a tree fell down in the back of the school ground a year or so ago. It was in an area of the yard that wasn’t used much for children’s play – somewhere between a playground and a cricket pitch. Suddenly this fallen tree became hot property. Kids of all ages played in and around it. Cubbies with roofs of spindly branches and hidey holes between earth and trunk. Pirate ships, planks to walk, swords to swish. Their imaginations were endless. I’d watch with awe and fascination at the people these sometimes previously lack lustre children became in that fallen tree.

Likewise, when another tree trunk was partitioned into pieces to be taken away the children quickly adopted them. They were stepping stones first and then, when some bigger children found a clunky awkward way of moving them (rolling usually), they became a fort. There was always a teacherly warning – Be careful of the ants! Don’t fall off! Mind for splinters! They were fine, they were always fine. I noticed yesterday that the years have passed and the grass has grown a little around these wooden forts, but they haven’t been taken away as originally planned.

There are lots of slides and monkey bars and towers to climb in our playground, but I think the imagination really happens around these natural play grounds – the ones that pop up without planning. I love to see what comes alive in children when they are given something without rules and instructions.

Play is the most wonderful thing – I love that in my job as a teacher and my role as a mother I’m given more and more opportunities to play in my day-to-day life. It brings something alive in me, a feeling that yearns back to rickety tree houses and war games in ditches, ball gowns as costumes and tunnels in the hay.

I’m excited about the many years of play I have ahead of me. I can only hope that sometimes, just sometimes, Little Fearse will make those cubbies and tunnels big enough for me to join her.

Mama xo

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