In episode 36 – which aired this past Tuesday in real time – nursery school owner and director Tanya Trainor shared about the changes she, her staff, and the children they serve made to their playground. The traditional slides, climbers, and other big (pricey) equipment typically seen on the playground are gone, and in their place are what Tanya calls “loose parts.”
Tanya shares that loose parts on the playground have translated for them into more social engagement and less redirection/discipline, a result they never expected.
Today, in this Your Child Explained episode in which we always get into the mind of our kids and see what’s going on in there, we discuss The Keys to the Kingdom and how to promote them so that our kids grow into creative, happy, socially engaged and above all successful adults.
I learned a lot about how loose parts bring out the best in children talking with Tanya and it’s this concept of “the best” that I think of as The Keys to the Kingdom – in other words, the keys we must give our kids that will open up so many doors as they grow up. These keys are:
1) open-ended play, meaning play that doesn’t have a goal, or a fixed ending point
2) intrinsic motivation, where the children do what they’re doing because it’s what they want to be doing, not because someone in authority, like a teacher or parent, is telling them to do it (or offering rewards for doing it, or punishments for not doing it)
3) social engagement, in which the children are playing and working together, part of the same team
Watching the kids play this way at Miss Tanya’s Nursery School reminded me of this saying, by Brian Sutton-Smith: “the opposite of play is not work. It is depression.” Kids need loose parts to tinker with, the ability to work without an adult telling them what to do, and people to engage with… Give them these Keys to the Kingdom – and watch them flourish!