We are in the midst of a play crisis. Recess keeps getting shorter if it’s not cut out all together in schools across the country, while children’s free time outside of school is increasingly scheduled and managed around various ‘enrichment’ programs and activities. Yet, years of psychology and cognition research as well as personal experience from our own lives and childhoods, make clear the importance of unstructured free time and scaffolded risk-taking for children’s growth, confidence-building and cultivating grit to name just a few of the vast emotional, physical and mental benefits of free play. Which makes the The Land, a new documentary by Erin Davis on “an endengered human behavior: risky play” all the more relevant. The Land, which recently premiered at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, explores a Welsh adventure playground where children are allowed and encouraged to play with fire, build and break things, get their hands dirty and maybe skin their knees…you know, be kids.
The Land (2015) is a short documentary film about the nature of play, risk and hazard set in The Land, a Welsh “adventure” playground. At The Land children climb trees, light fires and use hammers and nails in a play-space rooted in the belief that kids are empowered when they learn to manage risks on their own.
The documentary highights a growing movement, Playwork, which aims to create a paradigm shift and turn play into something that we take more seriously.
Playwork is a practice and a profession that removes barriers to children’s play. It has a decades long history in Europe and a hearty library of fascinating theory. Playworkers make adventure play possible.
To create an adventure playground in your own community and learn more about the theory and history and the playwork movement, check out Penny Wilson’s The Playwork Primer and Pop-Up Adventure‘s Pop-Up Play Shop Toolkit – a workbook designed to help you transform an empty storefront into a thriving community play space.
play & rethink …*
When asked what she hopes people will take away from the documentary, director Erin Davis answers:
Landscape matters. Access to the elements matters: trees, water, fire. Agency and empowerment matter. Variety and change in a playspace matters. The Land, and places like it, push the envelope of what is possible.
I also simply hope people leave the film excited to interact with the children in their lives in a new way. A way that is bold, compassionate and enriching for both the child and the adult.