Adventure PlayDays. Where children are in charge and the learning lasts a lifetime!
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then an Adventure PlayDay is worth a million. When adults witness the child engagement of an Adventure PlayDay, they begin to understand the fundamental role that play has in the overall development of children.
When you mention the words “Adventure PlayDay” to adults, most do not understand what you mean. When PLAYLearnThink pitched the idea of hosting an Adventure PlayDay to the organizers of a municipal children’s event back in 2005, the organizers kept asking: “What will the children do?” So I would repeat: “Whatever they want to do.” Unfortunately they could not envision this idea so I also told them that there would also be an area where children could use natural materials along with hammers and nails to create a Forest Fairy Friend. The organizers could visualize this activity and so we were given the go ahead for the Adventure PlayDay. It was at the playday, when they saw what the children and their families were doing with the loose parts, that the organizers finally understood the power of self-directed play.
So what does an Adventure PlayDay look like? The Adventure PlayDay space is transformed into a children’s wonderland filled with a large variety of loose parts and tools which will spark the child’s imagination. It is a place where children are in charge which leads to soaring creativity, astonishing feats of problem solving and an abundance of self-confidence. It is a place where families come together to play and strengthen community ties. The adults are encouraged to support the children in their play but the adults must not take over or direct the play. The children decide what they want to do. The Adventure PlayDays take on different forms and include different play elements depending on the space, time of year and the needs of the client. The Adventure PlayDay…Wait! Isn’t a picture worth a thousand words? Click here for a slide show of Adventure PlayDay pictures.
Parent Engagement Adventure PlayDay
PLAYLearnThink developed a Parent Engagement Adventure PlayDay to address the challenge our daycares and primary schools are facing because the parents do not fully understand the importance of self-directed play in the healthy development of children. The Parent Engagement Adventure PlayDay resembles the regular Adventure PlayDay with one addition. During these events there is a presentation for parents about the fundamental role that play has in the healthy development of their children. The topics presented include self-directed play, exploration of risk, well-being and inquiry-based learning. Once the event has started and the children are engaged in their play, parents are invited to come into a separate space for the presentation which typically lasts 30 minutes. Trained play ambassadors support the children in their play while the parents participate in the presentation however one parent often stays with the child(ren) while the other attends the presentation. After the parents receive the information, they return to their playing child(ren) where they observe what we just discussed in action.
Play and science are very similar: they both involve exploring our environment in order to ask questions and build knowledge. Some daycares and schools want a more science or inquiry based playday so the format for these knowledge building sessions differs from the traditional Adventure PlayDay. They start with a demonstration of various science concepts using different everyday materials so that the parents can repeat them at home. During this engaging presentation, children participate as volunteers. This presentation typically lasts 30 minutes. Then the children can go to different stations to explore the science concepts a little further. One station is like a mini Adventure PlayDay with plenty of loose parts and tools however there is one difference: the children are asked to create something in order to solve a challenge. For example, the children are asked to design and build something that will throw a tennis ball into a box 2 or 3 meters away.
For older school children science workshops can include designing and building a marble roller coaster or a catapult. These workshops also start with demonstrations to explore the various physics concepts then the students are provided with materials and tools and work in groups to accomplish their tasks.
What people say:
“ Thank you Pierre for the wonderful day at our school. The students and staff had “the best day ever!” It was incredible to witness some students (who normally are at each other in the classroom) come together to work collaboratively as they overcame challenges to build a great fort. I was impressed with the problem solving, cooperation, communication and lack of behaviour issues. Looking forward to doing this again!”
Principle, Elementary school (K-8), Sudbury, Canada
“Pierre…thanks a million for the very wonderful presentations…You are an excellent teacher, very informed, sensitive to the kids and of course, very entertaining. I gave them a little quiz…they could explain many of the principles which you had introduced to them…this is a great indication of just how in tune you were to them, and them, to you!…thanks again.”
Teacher, Elementary school, Gr. 6, Toronto, Canada