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Altering Play Spaces (paper 6)

Sydney's picture

Sydney Huff

October 11, 2014

ESem Paper #6

Altering Play Spaces

Children’s play environments are now being made safer. Emily has experienced the evolution of her childhood playground that has been modified to accommodate the safety of children, but the changes ignore the children's need for fun. Realizing this, it is important to discern whether or not play spaces should be altered by adults. There are numerous opinions on what exactly play is, so it is important to take into account the opinions and experiences of different play theorists. By doing this, Emily’s proposal that children should not be too coddled in their play spaces may help to support play theorists' ideas of what play is or is not.

Emily’s idea that we should consider the consequences of coddling children seems reasonable. If scientists in the New York Times article were discovering evidence that suggested that play is important for skillbuilding, then it might be foolish to be overly protective of children during their play. One scientist, Bekoff, stated that he thinks of play as "unexpected. Behavioral flexibility and variability is adaptive; in animals it’s really important to be able to change your behavior in a changing environment (“Taking Play Seriously” 7).’’ If children do not have an environment which presents challenges, then how will they learn to adapt? Through Bekoff's research, it becomes apparent that there is a very large possibility that play is necessary for skill building. If children do not learn to cope with falling down or injuring themselves while playing, then it will be difficult for them to know how to cope with similar difficulties as adults.

Although Bekoff and other scientists may agree with Emily’s notions, not all play theorists would. In “Ravens and Play”, Debbie desired to feed the wild coyotes. Similar to Debbie, the parents who Emily is referencing, often neglect to look towards their child’s future. Although it would be great to save children from the embarrassment of falling on concrete during a game of tag, providing too much protection will not help to give them more experiences in life. Emily proposes that kids need to learn to deal with experiencing pain. This regard for the future would be difficult for Debbie to accept, as she was mesmerized by the presence of the coyotes. She felt pulled toward them, and emotional connection to the present suffering of the coyotes would not let her give regard to the negative consequences for future of the coyotes and the animals that live in their habitat (“Ravens at Play”). Parents probably experience a similar emotional drive to protect their children. However, Emily thinks thinks that this behavior is negligent and would harm the children in the long run.

It was another member of Debbie’s team that prevented her from feeding the coyotes. This member, Stuart, explained to Debbie that her actions "would be horribly irresponsible, and that there would be nothing generous in the gift in the long term (Ravens at Play 327)." Although Stuart's language sounds convincing,  he does not provide substantial evidence to support this claim. In addition, many scientists believe that play is useless. They assert that play does not help to develop the brain and that children who don't spend much time playing still develop skills necessary for life (“Taking Play Seriously”). Keeping this in mind, then it may be true that children do not need experiences of pain, be it physical or emotional, while playing. Parents might be doing a good thing by creating safe play environments.

It would interesting to discover how many children actually want their parents to intervene in their play. Like the white saviors in Teju Cole’s article, the parents may not be doing as much good as they believe they are. Children should have a say in what they want removed from their play spaces. It does not seem fair to assume that something is not safe because a couple kids have gotten hurt. Accidents can happen anywhere, and children must learn to move on when something bad has happened to them. Emily’s and Cole’s theories seem to both be built upon this notion.

Cole supports this idea that“ those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them (Cole 1).” However, this claim may not be totally valid. People are not always aware of a forthcoming danger. In regards to play environments. It seems ideal to ask children how they prefer their play spaces, there competence must be taken into consideration. Many five year olds probably do not understand the concept of breaking a bone. If children do not know what danger lies ahead, then how can they appropriately decide what should and should not remain in play environments? Perhaps parents are doing the right thing when they modify playgrounds. Children’s social skills may be flourishing without the danger of old playground equipment or blacktop surfaces.

Cole asserted that Americans should do not intervene in the affairs of foreign countries because  From the readings that we have discussed in class, I think that her play theory makes sense for the most part. Although not all play theorists would agree with her, I think that she presents an excellent point that changing children’s play environments by making them safer can prevent children from developing necessary skills needed later in life. Perhaps there is not enough evidence to support this claim, but it makes sense that play will lose a sense of realism if overly modified by humans. Society and natural environment are full of surprises, especially painful experiences. Someone who has injured themselves while running errands may be more adept in handling the situation if he or she scraped a knee on the playground as a child. Similarly, a person who falls in public may be able to adapt to the embarrassment if he or she had experienced a couple of embarrassing falls while playing at recess. Without experience, it is hard to learn how to survive in society's unpredictable environments

Works Cited


Rose, Deborah Bird, Stuart Cooke and Thom Van Dooren. "Ravens at Play." Cultural Studies  ………..Review 17, 2 (September 2011), 326-43.

Robin Henig, Taking Play Seriously, New York Times (Feb. 17, 2008).

Teju Cole. “The White-Savior Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic (March 21, 2012).



Sydney's picture

I remember posting this and having a comment on it; however, I cannot find it on Serendip so I am reposting it.