Child holding an armful of kindling. (Photo credit Zavellennahh Huscroft Young)

Playing is learning

“Mom, I don’t even need my toys. I just need a sharp little axe and some wood.”

Submitted by Zavallennahh Huscroft Young

Grandma called yesterday, asking if my 7-year-old son could make her some kindling and bring it over so she could make a fire. So I sent him to the basement, set up with gloves, a hatchet, and a stack of wood ready for chopping. (Note: We have taught our kids how to properly and safely use axes, knives and other tools from their earliest years). I then went upstairs to do important mom work and left my son in the basement to do his important grandson work. At first, I heard the tell-tale “thwack” of wood being split into kindling, but soon this turned into other sounds which were harder to identify and continued on for quite some time. And then a cheery little face appeared at the top of the basement stairs, asking for a snack. Down went the boy and the apple; I couldn’t contain my curiosity so descended for a peek. Rounds and split pieces of wood had been fashioned into a table, a chair, plus a couch for his sister and a custom designed axe rest and kindling splitting jig. Eventually, he finished his snack and got back to work on the kindling. Later on, as we were driving to Grandma’s house to deliver the box of kindling, my son said “Mom, I don’t even need my toys. I just need a sharp little axe and some wood.”

I read a fascinating and alarming article* this week, which took an in-depth look at the subject of free play in children’s lives, and the deficit of it in more recent years. According to psychologist and researcher Peter Gray, “Beginning around 1960 or a little before, adults began chipping away at that freedom by increasing the time that children had to spend at schoolwork and, even more significantly, by reducing children’s freedom to play on their own, even when they were out of school and not doing homework. Adult-directed sports for children began to replace ‘pickup’ games; adult-directed classes out of school began to replace hobbies; and parents’ fears led them, ever more, to forbid children from going out to play with other kids, away from home, unsupervised. There are lots of reasons for these changes but the effect, over the decades, has been a continuous and ultimately dramatic decline in children’s opportunities to play and explore in their own chosen ways. Over the same decades that children’s play has been declining, childhood mental disorders have been increasing…The decline in an opportunity to play has also been accompanied by a decline in empathy and a rise in narcissism.” The article continues on to conclude that learning and playing are not opposite sides of a dichotomy, but rather, that play is absolutely essential to all learning and for healthy emotional and psychological development.

According to my son, he just played all morning. But according to research, his unsupervised free play is helping him learn and grow in all the most important ways; creativity, problem-solving, resilience, empathy, and a healthy dose of good old fashioned fun.

Zavallennahh Huscroft Young is a mother, co-facilitator at Kootenay Nature School, and a professional musician.


Just Posted

Contempt charge against Balfour logging protesters dropped on technicality

A B.C. Supreme Court justice ruled Cooper Creek Cedar failed to file a contempt application

Creston Fire Rescue respond to nine calls

Creston Fire Rescue responded to nine calls from Aug 12 – 19… Continue reading

Creston businesses, riders invited to join in Kootenay Lake Gran Fondo

Creston Rotary Club and chamber of commerce organizing September cycling event

Fields Forward Society adding value to Creston Valley cherries

‘Cosmetically unsuitable’ cherries juiced for sharing through Creston, Nelson, Cranbrook food banks

Creston author launching book about Kimberley man’s motorcycle accident

Lori Luczka’s ‘Lost: 7 Hours to Live’ chonicles Paul Kerr’s 2015 accident that claimd his left leg

VIDEO: Canadian zoos’ captive breeding programs help preserve endangered species

Programs considered last-ditch effort to prevent local extinctions of turtles, butterflies and more

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Unseasonable snow forces campers out of northeastern B.C. provincial park

Storm brought as much as 35 centimetres of snow to the Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake Park-Stone Mountain Park

Telus customers enraged as outage hits fifth day has been down since Aug. 15

B.C. log export rules killing us, northwest harvester says

NorthPac Forestry says Skeena Sawmills has plenty of timber

Search crews find 4-year-old boy who went missing near Mackenzie

George went missing early Saturday afternoon

Most Read