Children are naturally curious. They see the potential for creativity in the simplest forms, from old cardboard boxes and rope to basic carpentry tools. But so often, protective parents and constraints on creative space at home prevents them from being able to fully explore these instincts. For the children of Wales, UK, The Land Adventure Playground offers a respite from over-supervision. The Land is a place where children are encouraged to play how they choose, taking risks and developing independence. Though it may appear to be a junkyard at first glance, Adventure Playspace allows children to explore playing with materials they may not have access to at home in a way that fosters creativity and risk assessment. Children of The Land climb trees, light fires and use hammers and nails in a play-space rooted in the belief that kids are empowered when they learn to manage risks on their own, enabling them to learn and test their limits in an adult-monitored environment.
On October 20th, a group of design professionals, educators, and play enthusiasts gathered in PNCA’s Mediatheque Theater to watch the short documentary The Land, a film about its namesake Welsh Adventure Playground. The film highlights the importance of free play and risk taking in childhood development and how Adventure Play is addressing this need. Through non-directed play, children learn to organize themselves and their environments. Aided by Playworkers (adults who ensure the children are safe while allowing them to maintain their autonomy) the children learn to manage their world physically, socially, and emotionally.
What exactly is Adventure Play? Our latest exhibition – Extraordinary Playscapes answers that question, and shows you why it is critical to our social, emotional, educational, and physical development. It’s open to the public at the newly renovated Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for the Art at PNCA until December 17, 2016.
Adventure Play includes elements of nature and whimsy and focus on allowing children to direct their own play environment and take risks. It encourages them to test their environment and build relationships with their peers and the world around them independent of the direction of adults. We’ve featured over 40 playscapes similar to The Land in our Exhibition. I’d encourage you to learn more.
After the film we were joined in conversation by Jess Graff, Resident Artist at the Portland Children’s Museum, and Will Hathaway, Founder of Multnomah Arts Center. The audience was highly engaged with comments and questions that speculated on the benefits of Adventure Play and asked how we can continue to provide these opportunities for children locally. Jess and Will gave us an inside look into the importance of Adventure Play opportunities for children and the work Pop-Up Adventure Play is doing, including an upcoming Kids Design Workshop with Design Museum at PNCA November 6th.
Our recent screening of the film The Land may have been our best to date! In this world where the range a child is allowed to roam has diminished to only 300 yards, it is inspiring to know there are play spaces throughout the world like the The Land, that provide much needed opportunities for kids to be kids and teach themselves how to be adults… eventually.
Written by Stephanie Younger, Design Museum Portland.
Edited by Mary Wilson, Design Museum Portland.