The oak is one of my favourite trees. They tower above with a stillness and a quiet confidence that comes from a life well-lived. They have strong roots and stand tall under their own weight, gently cradling those who climb, sit and occasionally swing amongst their branches.
The oak is the perfect metaphor for what I hope to create through FossoPLAY. The idea of its’ growth and development, strong roots, of its’ resilience and fortitude to withstand the elements and the challenges it must face as it grows. This all chimes with the ethos and ambition of the nursery.
I say nursery, but like the oak we have big ideas… Perhaps I’ll stick with FossoPLAY for now, it feels broader, less prescribed.
FossoPLAY is the niggle that’s developed in the back of my mind since I began working with children, it’s the voice that’s been getting progressively louder since the birth of my children and is now the ringing alarm sounding in my ears daily.
The alarm comes from seeing children (my own included) peering over the top of tablets, smart phones and other nondescript screens, from seeing seemingly happy children morph into Tasmanian Devils at the switch of a socket and, more sobering, from watching the steady increase in children considered overweight and obese and the pervasive mental health epidemic sweeping across our country’s youth.
These examples are the ‘stick’. I’ve used them to scare myself into action but they are not the reason I want there to be a FossoPLAY – that’s far more to do with the ‘carrot’ (that’s a healthy eating reference, see what I did there).
It’s my own children and my childhood that motivates me. It’s easy to fall in to the trap of focusing on the bad, the tabloid fear of zombie kids and over weight wains’ but I don’t belive in being motivated by negativity – what if things get better, where’s your motivation then?
My motivation comes from remembering my own childhood outside building fires on the beach and dens by the loch behind where we lived. I consider myself (and the research backs me up) to be part of the last generation to grow up with relative freedom and the opportunity to roam ….unsupervised! The last generation of kids without the internet – although we did have the Venga Boys and Noel’s House Party so ‘swings and roundabouts’ (that’s a play reference, keep up).
Jokes aside, it’s important. As a child I felt free, I met up with my friends face to face and we connected, sometimes we argued but we were connected and engaged in a common goal. I had freedom to find my play and my interests with no expectation of how ‘fun’ it should be. I was left to get bored, an important step in the creative process, and I got to take risks and push my own boundaries.
I didn’t feel I was academic but i was coordinated, with good balance and a head for heights and I took huge confidence from being good at the physical stuff, a confidence I still carry to this day – although it’s more a “when i was your age i could…” kind of middle-aged, retrospective confidence now.
To this day if I’m stressed or feel the weight of the world is on my shoulders, I take a deep breath and go for a walk or set myself to a job on the yard and the stress lifts, I find my perspective, my family comes into view and my life feels familiar again.
We’re very fortunate to live where we do, we have acres of space, literally, and I can watch my kids outside playing on hay bales and scrabbling in the dirt and stones and they’re completely lost in their play. They’re laughing and planning and negotiating and shouting and a million other things, and I feel like those are the moments, as a parent where I’m getting it right…. I’m not doing anything, other than consciously leaving them to work it out for themselves. Those are the moments when I see the people I hope they’ll grow into – happy, engaged, creative and dynamic young adults.
In my day job I’m often invited in to help the staff with behavioral issues. I’m by no means an expert but I have some experience and an interest that means I’ve done my research into child behaviours, trauma and attachment. I would go in to see the staff and always end up asking the same question “have you tried taking them outside?” It’s not rocket science, I’m aware, but it’s had a 100% success rate. I’m not saying it cured all ills but it gave the kids the space they needed to cope with their emotions and gave the staff a strategy that allowed them to cope and to manage their emotions too.
So, why all the rambling above… because what I’m clumsily trying to explain is that time and time again I’ve seen how the outdoors brings balance and perspective, how it provides risk and reward, how it grounds us like the roots of the great oak and teaches us about our own inner strength and resilience. Through all that it instills a quiet confidence, that alluring quality that some people have; humility mixed with unwavering resolve and self-belief.
Now why wouldn’t we want every child to have that? Isn’t that really what we all want for our children, happiness and the ability to cope with whatever life through at them with a quite determination and a smile.
Great oaks from little acorns grow…..
OK, so that’s the values and aspirational bit, how that becomes reality, well, that’s what I need to work out over the next few months (and years). I hope some of you might even be willing to help me figure it out along the way. To me it’s more than just a nursery it’s part of a movement, but oddly a movement that takes us back in time in order to move forwards for our kids (that’s a Back to the Future reference… just because).