Many playgroups and nurseries are catching on to the brilliant idea of including Wendy Houses and playhouses in their gardens, or Play Tents in their social rooms, because of the huge benefits they provide for children’s development.
Children often don’t need objects or toys, (even though they’re always swimming in them), because using just each other, their social skills develop well; with talking to each other, creating imaginative games and bouncing ideas off of each other during playtime. However, with modern developments and different structures being implemented within nurseries and schools, the time that children are given to play is becoming more and more limited; not through any unkind purpose of course – in fact it’s just the opposite – it’s because we want the very best for our children.
We are becoming so fixated on structure and educational value, though, that we sometimes forget that the very best educational value can be found in play. The WCBC, a Wrexham county council team dedicated to highlighting the importance of play and encouraging communities to take an active role in providing play spaces for their children, state that “children today have far less opportunities to play freely compared to previous generations, and as a result are missing out on the wide range of benefits that come from quality play experiences”.
The very nature of children’s play is that it’s totally unstructured; the movements from one imaginary game to another can seem completely unrelated and random, while the various emotions and different behaviours involved are utterly alien to us. So alien, in fact, that we can’t possibly hope to control it in a structured environment. Children can make something from nothing, or more specifically a gourmet pie from wet mud or a luxury home from a garden bush; so rather than trying to analyse and control such play time, the best we can do is support and encourage it.
Providing a place for children’s play time is so important and incredibly beneficial; playhouses, for example, provide excellent grounds and secure retreats for children, acting as perfect building blocks for their development. The interaction between the children is key, and by having something that unites them and provides the base for inventing fun games, the interaction is even greater. Creating pretend tea parties, jungle hideouts, and safari adventures uses so much imagination and creativity, and the beauty of this is that it’s all coming from the children themselves. The Wendy House or Play Tent is simply a catalyst that lets the kids create their own playtime completely from scratch, without being limited to certain themes and games. A selection of unique playhouses can be seen here.
It is often thought that playhouses only come in the form of wooden or plastic structures that are suitable for the garden. However, the playtime does not need to be weather dependent, there are many canvas play tents that function in exactly the same way, that are wonderfully suitable for inside as well as outdoors. It’s amazing to watch children grow and develop their social and motor skills, while seeing them learn amongst other children, and the amount of different purposes the playhouses can be given by the children is endless! There are great guides available to help with picking out the best playhouse; one can be seen here.
Children love to recreate actions and behaviours they’ve seen on kids TV or films, and most of these adventures involve a humble abode of some sort, whether that be a King’s Castle, a Princess parlour or a Tiger’s den, so you can imagine how excited the children are when they have the chance to re-enact their favourite stories using their very own hideout. The identification with characters from stories and fairytales is a very healthy activity that not only encourages social development, but also helps children to learn the complicated rules of speech within social interaction.
Written by Hannah Davey, a play consultant based in Oxfordshire