Thoughtcrime on marc-armitage.com is now online.
"The approach that often well-meaning campaigns, such as the latest Irish ‘Let’s take on childhood obesity’ campaign, adopt in relation to children playing, often leaves me cold."
This piece describes how assumptions about children's lives can sometimes override reality and that even well-meaning people can advance projects that they might feel will be of benefit but which ultimately are just trying to fix something that simply is not broken.
"Anyone who works with children, particularly younger children, knows that some of the objects that find there way into pockets no matter how small or seemingly incidental are clearly more than meaningless."
This piece links one particular element of children's play with mysticism and the importance of objects in children's lives. A psychologist gets a mention ... but not in a good way.
QUESTION - What things have you been brought by children? What objects have you seen them collect and keep? How have they used these things?
"It is not enough for adults to just explain reality in a real world context to children – to make sense of our type of reality children must do so in their own way and that means playing it through in their own non-adult reality."
The topic of war, weapon and superhero play is a thorny one that can be divisive yet there is one easily overlooked, sometimes ridiculed element of such play that should inform us on what our attitude towards it should be.
"It now seems routine that not only is TV news footage of children altered to disguise identity but so are images of children gathered for other reasons too."
Fuzzy and headless children are everywhere and we think it is contributing to making children's lives safer but it is not. The real effect is a negative one and it affects more than just children.
"We often throw around the term ‘risky play’ as though it was a category of play like social play or gross-motor play. But it is not. Taking risks is simply one of the things children do when they are playing and, because a significant amount of playing is about pushing boundaries and extending ourselves, it turns out that most play is risky in one way or another."
This is a longer than usual piece as it was originally something published in the Barnados Ireland journal. It questions our approach to guarding against the risks and hazards that children face in institutional settings and suggests four particularly risky experiences that all children should have access to.
"When I was living and working in Sweden, a friend and fellow PhD student of mine with the Högskolan i Halmstad (the University of Halmstad) called Anders Nelson, now Dean of the University, told me a story about his young son Viktor."
In a piece that mixes a superhero, a punk rock star and Eric Morecambe we explore one tiny experience that reminds us how easy it is for adults to forget how earth shatteringly amazed we could be as children to discover something new and profound.
"I have absolutely no objection to people smacking children under any circumstances. None. On one condition."
There is a fierce battle curently underway in the United States of America between a group of people who wish to see the rights of children upheld and extended, and another group who see this as a threat to their familiy life. There have been some significant developments since this piece was first written which are highlighted in a new postscript.
"I realised how tempted I was to point out to these two adults why their boys could not contain themselves and note that they themselves were creating an impossible situation for themselves and their sons - but it would have been ugly. So I didn’t."
Parents and other adults can be oblivious to the effect their actions can have on the children around them and can sometimes sap the wonder from children's experiences. This story describes two such examples - one conscious the other not.
"I have a message to all those out there that might not have much respect for the well-being agenda or who might believe that the issue of children’s happiness is nothing but a modern fad that has no real bearing on the real world. You’re an idiot."
Some aspects of Playwork are harder than others. This story highlights one of the most profound.
"I’ve been asked a number of times why I continue to wear black and white Converse originals on my feet and am rarely seen without them – even in a suit (true story). Today, I explain one of the reasons why."
Shoes. It comes down to shoes. Interestingly, this piece has been one the most commented on, most sharied pieces I've ever written. Here it is brought up to date with a new crucial piece of information in a postscript.
"Throughout most of the 1980s I lived in a house down a cul-de-sac. It was a quite short street with not too many parked cars on and, completely by chance, had three or four playworkers living down it – two of us in the same house."
Children clearly create their own special places for playing but sometimes they need help from local adults to make this work. It can be as simple as asking the right questions and knocking on the right doors and it need not cost the earth.
"He momentarily lost his balance but once he’d recovered he put the stick back on the fence and carried on plinking and plonking."
Adults can help and adults can hinder. It's as simply a matter of attitude.
"Why is it that a legislator feels the necessity to legally protect the rights of adults in relation to privacy and social networking but not of children and young people?"
This is not a question of new fangled technology and the need for the latest electronic gizmo. It's about independence and recognising that the children and young people of today live different lives to that which we did and have opportunities available to them which we may not fully understand.
"Posing a question in 2005 Paul Martin said, “We all say we want children to be happy, but it is a notoriously elusive aspect of human existence. How can parents help children to maximise their chances of being happy people?"
This piece questions our perception of 'quality time' in children's lives and challenges the idea that what children need most is to spend more time in parental company. It highlights the findings of a number of surveys and studies, gives IKEA a shout-out and name drops some significant thinkers on this topic.