If you live along the three-kilometer route Chris Gregory takes to work every day, you may have seen him galloping on his hobby horse, skipping down the sidewalk or playing leap frog with a friend. In fact, for the entire month of March, Mr. Gregory has decided to commute to his job at the Isle of Man's Children's Centre using a different form of child's play every day.
It is far from the average way to start the morning, and one might wonder what inspired Mr. Gregory to abandon his normal adult routine. Simply put, Mr. Gregory believes in the power of play, and he's using his morning commute as a way to advocate for it. He believes that children need play, but they are quickly losing the time, space and safety required to have an adequate and playful childhood. He therefore hopes these epic commutes will bring attention to the growing need for safer routes to schools and playgrounds for children.
You can check out videos of his morning commute here.
Like many of us in education and play advocacy, Mr. Gregory believes we show our care for our children not by simply preparing them for the workforce through academic proficiency, but also by developing the whole child through play, exercise, proper diet and caring communities.
This raises a few questions: How far would you go to advocate for play? How important do you feel play is to the development and well-being of our kids? How important is to us as adults?
The passion we show for play demonstrates to our kids how seriously we take it. I know it sounds like an oxymoron to say "serious" and "play" in the same sentence, but if we want play to maintain a significant place in our lives, we have to dedicate ourselves to it.
Social media, social networking and other technologies are consistently invading areas once considered light -- like chatting with your neighbor or Aunt Rebecca -- and they're making the world overly-serious. Now, even our lightest conversations hold significance because we have to entertain ourselves and others with status updates. We feel the pressure to check in with our followers on Foursquare or tweet the funniest tidbit of the day. We are constantly vying for attention. We all feel the pressure, and whenever we feel pressure, we can be sure we aren't playing.
We must therefore commit to a strong relationship with play. Our children need to have a childhood, like generations past, without being pressured academically and socially to succeed beyond their years. Like many of us, Mr. Gregory lives in a place that needs to do a better job of making play spaces available to kids, as well as encouraging them to walk, ride bikes and scooter to school.
Thankfully, however, Mr. Gregory's actions are not unilateral. In a similar fashion, the Washington, D.C. based nonprofit, KaBoom!, is working with communities all over the United States to help kids gain access to playgrounds that are locked after school hours. If this is a problem in your community, check out how your town can partner with your school in a joint use agreement and keep play spaces open on weekends and evenings.
Parenting doesn't stop at the front door. How we play at home and what we demonstrate to our children about the significance of play through our own lives branches out into our communities. It either helps our towns and cities grow or hinders their healthy development. Whether advocate or parent, teacher or community leader, we have a responsibility to create space and time for our children to play. And with every leap, every hop, and every skip, Mr. Gregory is asking us to remember that.