About two years ago my mother sent me a link to watch a video of street musicians singing and playing Stand by me. Towards the end of the song there was a link to Playing for Change organization. Somehow -maybe destiny?- I misspelled the web address typing Play for Change instead. I really liked what I found there and very much appreciated the game you must play to enter the site.
This made me curious enough to accept the challenge and I finally defeated the 7 myths that “still keep millions of would be world-changers lost in the maze”. I proudly read the information beyond the maze and convinced myself of the importance of keeping my own myths under constant check. So I signed in to become part of Creative Communities. I was feeling really enthusiastic about it… but maybe the evil myth monsters caught my eyes and hipnotized me a bit after all:
Slow and steadily, I forgot most of this enlightening concepts regaining my daily routine of problem solving oriented thoughts. Until recently.
On December 16th my Inbox had a Christmas greeting from Play for Change: a provocative article as a gift from David Engwicht and the staff at Creative Communities. Today, finally, I had enough time to read the article which, again, fueled my enthusiasm about the “playful perspective” to change and improve communities. But best of all, I suddenly realized there was an existing link between self directed play for babies and self responsible citizens. Engwicht article reads:
“The late Hans Monderman was a Dutch engineer who pioneered the removal of traffic control devices from villages. His grand vision was the ‘re-democratization of public space.’ He said, ‘As an engineer, it is not my job to try and forecast every potential problem the village may have in the future and resolve that potential conflict, in advance, through design. Every time I resolve a potential conflict through a new regulation or white line, I de-skill the community in resolving its own conflicts. And resolving conflict is at the heart of building robust, resilient communities.”
Just as the inhabitants of any community deserve to develop their own problem solving skills, babies have the right to conquer their own skills in a safe environment through self directed play. So many times I´ve felt tempted to anticipate their difficulties and to resolve their conflicts. And I did it with the best intentions under the spell of my own myths: they looked so little, so innocent, so helpless. But as a result of this “help” (not only the one I offered but the one most of well intended adults tend to offer) they really de-skill their inborn abilities and learn to become adult centered and dependent. Later on, during their childhood and teenage they´ll have to struggle hard to regain what was inborn but lost. This is something no one wants to happen and as an educator I did worry a lot about older children´s need for an adult intervention to reach independent and creative play. Ironically, well intended “helping” adults become would be childhood saviours lost in the educational maze. Through its corridors, educational myth monsters hypnotize them: babies are not complete humans, babies need everything done for them, babies need to be stimulated constantly, all healthy babies should reach developmental stages at certain ages. Is it so?
Mainly thanks to Emmi Pikler and Magda Gerber contributions (whom I discovered thanks to Janet Lansbury) I´m starting to learn my lesson and open my heart so I would stop “thinking” how to stimulate babies development and start “observing” them mastering their own interests. This does not mean “abandoning” babies. No! This means trusting babies and offering an adequate safe play oriented context where they can unfold their inborn potential knowing they are fully free precisely because we are standing by them, supporting and respecting their unique way of being and their enthusiastic way of becoming. And we reassure our love and support being 100% present when nursing, changing and bathing them.
Just as a playful perspective transforms world “problems” into real “solutions” created by responsible citizens, a respectful approach towards infants self directed play transforms educational problems born out of an adult interventionist model into real “babies developmental activism”. Being their uniqueness accepted, they also learn to love and accept themselves and to love and accept others, though they might be different. I´m sure societies at large will be greatly benefited if infants and children are reared in such trust, support, respect and freedom. If babies could say it in one sentence, I´m sure that would be: “Oh, darling, darling, stand by me”.
By the way if you would like to watch the video I mentioned above, here it is. Enjoy and celebrate diversity!