Children are by nature explorers and adventurers who want to conquer the world. Free and creative playing is especially important in childhood as it promotes physical, cognitive and social skills, and is crucial in personality development. Free play can be easiest to achieve in the open countryside, which provides the space to fantasize, run riot and experiment. But if the weather and your schedule aren’t cooperating, your own home can also become the perfect playground. Dirk Schelhorn, from the Fanta Playground Initiative, has a number of simple yet imaginative tips on bringing the playground home.
The Living Room as Adventure Playground
Children take pride in having their friends over for playtime. If they are then also allowed to use the living room – the center of their family’s life – for their games, they get even more excited.
Two important prerequisites for creative development are 1) a stimulating environment and 2) the encouragement of new movement and experiences. The living room, which is full of tables, chairs, sofas, windows and plants, offers a variety of elements that can be integrated into play. A simple tunnel can be built from covered chairs. And why not expand on that idea? You could even create a large campground or hideaway using tables and chairs covered with sheets. Experimenting with furniture also helps at birthday parties: instead of having to sit around the table, perhaps children could celebrate on the floor.
The Garden as Play Paradise
Even your own garden offers plenty of potential for a child’s sense of discovery. Using a few simple tools, the garden can quickly become a playground paradise.
Children need to experience nature, and they love to discover new things. Plants play a major role in this. Butterfly-attracting shrubs, climbing trees, edible herbs or berries, flowers for making garlands – all of these make it possible for children to explore nature by using their five senses. Careful shrub planting can create secret caves or niches for a quiet retreat. Old bed sheets attached to fence posts or trees can make a quick hammock for swinging in or a covered area in which to read aloud. Wooden planks, tree trunks or stones can let a child build in and “conquer” the garden to their heart’s content. Ropes tied between trees can be used to practice balancing. And why not try filling a small hollow with sand, stones, leaves and pine cones? Adding loose materials such as sticks, planks, pebbles and rope will then encourage your children to create their own fantasy worlds.
These individual tips can be implemented quite simply in any garden. And who knows – perhaps the adults will discover their inner child, too.