At Aroundsquare, we believe in play, and we believe in democracy. Until the end of December 2014, all proceeds from the purchase of Aroundsquare's toys will be donated to support the work of the civil society Council for a Community of Democracies. Learn more about their excellent work here. And read on to understand a little bit more about the connection between creative play and democratic participation.
One of the cornerstones of democracy is a citizenry that is ready to take on the responsibilities that democratic participation demands. This requires quite a lot of things, including a sense of interest and engagement in the world around us, and a feeling of self-efficacy, like we are capable of making a difference. We need to develop the capacity to think critically and creatively, to make decisions, and to act on those decisions. All of these things start to develop during childhood, through the way we learn to position ourselves in relation to the world around us.
The types of activities which young children participate in, and the kinds of objects they interact with, do a lot more than what they appear to on the surface. There are hidden lessons beneath the surface of everything, lessons which are learned subtly over time. Some activities cultivate docility, some cultivate reactivity, others teach kids to obediently follow directions to reach a prescribed goal. The child who has the opportunity to engage in real creative play, on a regular basis, is not just playing, not just building, not just using their imagination... That child is practicing thinking and makind their own decisions. That child is gaining the sense that they have some control over the world around them. That child is becoming empowered. The child who plays with simple and open ended toys like wooden blocks is not just learning to build towers... They are developing important dispositions - ways of being. They are learning to be builders. Period. And of course there are all of the other things they learn, the concentration, the fine motor skills the cognitive-spatial-geometric-whatevery jargon that fancy people like to talk about, but the role of play is much more fundamental than that.
Matthew Hiebert 2014-11-20