On the playground a group of five children were creating physical challenges using the play structure as a prop instead of using the equipment as it was designed. The children were climbing poles, slides, and rails. As I watched it appeared like the children were practicing Ninja Warrior training, like the popular TV show, performing exercises to enhance grip, strength, and balance. The children displayed a high strength to weight ratio during their challenges.
When immersed in play, many children enjoy taking risks and challenging themselves physically. The children are searching for the limit of their current physical potential and feel open to pushing that potential during play. They see play as a creative and exploratory process with no limits and many opportunities for success and adventure.
While the children were working on creating the next challenge I noticed other children relaxing under a tree. A few of the children were reading and other children were socializing with friends. Another group of children were looking at the bugs crawling around the tree and were trying to get the bugs to walk on their hands. Finally, I noticed a small group of children using sidewalk chalk to decorate the basketball court with colorful drawings.
On the playground children choose activities that fit their interests. Not all of the children like to be physical and high energy all of the time. On the playground there is always a group of children who use the play structure as a prop for exploring, relaxing, and dramatic play that is less physical than other play. These children prefer to engage in social connections as relaxation versus wanting to release their physical energy through high movement activities.
As the children continued designing Ninja Warrior challenges for themselves other children started to notice and inquire about what they were playing. This engagement started a discussion with a few of the inquiring children deciding to give the challenges a try by joining the larger group. The new child Ninjas were struggling at first to complete the challenges, but appeared to be enjoying the stimulating play as they kept coming back for more.
Some children are more adventurous than others and often they motivate children who are watching to try new challenges. Educators can learn much from children in the way we view risk and reward. The children I observe on the playground only see the rewards of trying something new. If the idea does not work the first time they dust themselves off and try again. As adults age I think we lose some of that openness that characterizes childhood. As educators, the more open we are in life and work to accepting challenges, the more we will reap the benefits of experience.
There is a saying that all good things must come to and end and recess for this day was over. All of the children collected themselves and we moved inside to start our afternoon project work. As we walked in many different groups of children were talking and reflecting on their experiences during the playground session. There was also talk of what could have been if we had more time and what will be tomorrow as we once again spend time outside on the playground and in a playful world full of possibilities.