The Evolution of Play

“Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul. Children have an innate ability to be curious and to investigate and to play to ­find things out.” - Frobel 

Play is universal. Across the world, cultures and millennia, children play. The games might differ, the props might vary but the fundamental joy and exuberance remains a constant. You only have to watch children playing outside to realise that their imagination is boundless, the humble stick can spark a myriad of games, take on a character, be a sword, make a bridge across a puddle, be the start of a den or camp fire or simply a tool to practise throwing.

Talk to any older generation about playing when they were young and nine times out of ten their stories will involve playing outside with friends and siblings, unencumbered by adults. Being outside is associated with freedom, a place where your imagination is king, the rules are yours to make. I’m sure we can all look back fondly and remember playing outside with friends building camps and dens, making ‘tools’ out of sticks, building pretend fires to cook over, making dams, mixing concoctions and testing our physical abilities. In a way we were lucky, we didn’t have the irresistible lure of tablets and smartphones to keep us inside. Playing outside with friends and siblings was normal and expected. 

Safety fears of allowing children to play outside and our modern, complicated lifestyles mean that children today have fewer opportunities for unstructured outdoor play. Children may well be ‘out of practice’ when it comes to thinking about playing outdoors “there’s nothing to do outside!” is commonly the response. However, offering children something to spark their imaginations and prompt them to venture outside is often all it takes. How about a sturdy haversack bag stuffed full with real tools and equipment for a den building expedition? Our award winning (Good Toy Guide Accredited) Den Kits have been designed (by Kay and Jo, ex teachers and forest school leaders) to encourage children outside, whatever the weather.

Younger children love mixing and concocting potions so our Potion Making Kit would be ideal, full of natural ingredients and plenty of equipment for experimenting. Those over eight would relish the challenge of gaining mastery in the art of fire starting with The Fire On A Plate Kit. 

Whatever you decide to give your children this Christmas try to choose something that will encourage open-ended, outdoor play and that will get your child excited about experimenting and discovery on their own terms. And remember, it is the doing that is the fun rewarding bit, not the end result! 

Give the gift of adventure. For this year, for all year, for every year.