How to Play Well

How important is play to both young and old? Wellcome Collection has put together an important exhibition that investigates the impact on play on both childrens’ development and society as a whole.

Image: ‘gifts’ are a series of very simple objects given to young children to help them explore the world and express their creativity designed by German educational reformer Friedrich Fröbel.

The exhibition explains how play is a tool for learning and self-development. It examines how play builds social skills and heals trauma.

In retrospective displays it is clear to see how play has evolved reflecting surrounding society.

The exhibition has been designed together with groups of children.

Wellcome Collection exhibition

The space has been divided around four themes:

  • Nature/ Nurture
  • Toys Like Us
  • Rules & Risks
  • Computer Games (by RawMinds)

Wellcome Collection exhibition

  • Nature/ Nurture

Friedrich Fröbel founded the kindergarten movement in Germany 1839. He believed that play was the highest expression of a child’s soul. Kindergarten (meaning ‘children garden’) went on to influence 20th-century art and design, from the Bauhaus to Buckminster Fuller.

Wellcome Collection exhibition

Buckminster Fuller attended Fröbel’s kindergarden. It had a lasting influence in his architectural practise by popularising geodesic dome structure.

Wellcome Collection exhibition

Frank Lloyd Wright was another famous kindergarden student, who benefited from Fröbel’s educational tools.

The first European nursery schools started in the 20th century, including impoverished city neighbourhoods.

Wellcome Collection exhibition

First London outdoor classrooms 1925 by McMillan sisters. They believed children learn through exploration and first hand experience, so large portion of day was given to free play.

Wellcome Collection exhibition

Replica of the world by Charles aged 7

The use of play therapy started in 20th century after wars. In 1989 the UN declared play as a basic human need in the rights of the child.

Wellcome Collection exhibition

Play Labs are spaces for children to access play and learning. These temporary structures are carefully designed using materials that reference local culture, evoking a sense of home and emotional security in a situation where there is none.

Wellcome Collection exhibition

Children’s play always absorbs and reflects trends in wider society. A generational gap exists on what is a prefered type of play as society is evolving.

  • Toys Like Us

The first LEGO town plan play was launched in 1955. LEGO products have evolved significantly since then alongside the chaning consumer needs. AFOL is an adult fan of LEGO who keeps collecting special items even after childhood. LEGO friends range in 2012 was especially designed for gilrs.

Wellcome Collection exhibition

Journalist Rebecca Atkinson founded creative collective #ToyLikeMe to better represent disability in children’s everyday life. The range shows human difference in toys.

  • Rules & Risks

Risk is an important part of play. But societal rules and changing attitudes to risk can limit the freedom of play. The adventure playground movement sought to preserve this kind of risky play. Originally set up in 1950s the mission remains crucial today.

Wellcome Collection exhibition

Aldo Van Eyck was a Dutch architect who designed ovet 700 playgrounds in Amsterdam. He believed that playg should builld into fabric of the city, activating unused areas.

Wellcome Collection exhibition

Right to Roam map

The map shows areas where children from four generations of one family were allowed to roam unaccompanied at the age of eight. A survey by the National Trust in 2012 reported that children’s freedom to roam has declined almost 90% since the 1970s. This has contributed to ‘nature deficit syndrome’, leading to physical and mental health problems and a growing inablity to assess risks.

Wellcome Collection exhibition

  • Computer games

As physical play has diminished, so digital play has increased. The rapid increase in video gaming has led to concerns of gaming addiction. It was classified as a disease by the World Health Organisation in 2018.

Group of 14-19 old youth created digital games for the exhibition based on their experience as ‘digital natives’. They were asked to consider both positive and negative aspects of gaming.

 

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