An Open Letter Concerning Play

Sir - As professionals and academics from a range of backgrounds, we are deeply concerned at the escalating incidence of childhood depression and children’s behavioural and developmental conditions. We believe this is largely due to a lack of understanding, on the part of both politicians and the general public, of the realities and subtleties of child development.

Since children’s brains are still developing, they cannot adjust – as full-grown adults can – to the effects of ever more rapid technological and cultural change. They still need what developing human beings have always needed, including real food (as opposed to processed “junk”), real play (as opposed to sedentary, screen-based entertainment), first-hand experience of the world they live in and regular interaction with the real-life significant adults in their lives.

They also need time. In a fast-moving hyper-competitive culture, today’s children are expected to cope with an ever-earlier start to formal schoolwork and an overly academic test-driven primary curriculum. They are pushed by market forces to act and dress like mini-adults and exposed via the electronic media to material which would have been considered unsuitable for children even in the very recent past.

Our society rightly takes great pains to protect children from physical harm, but seems to have lost sight of their emotional and social needs. However, it’s now clear that the mental health of an unacceptable number of children is being unnecessarily compromised, and that this is almost certainly a key factor in the rise of substance abuse, violence and self-harm amongst our young people.

This is a complex socio-cultural problem to which there is no simple solution, but a sensible first step would be to encourage parents and policy-makers to start talking about ways of improving children’s well-being. We therefore propose as a matter of urgency that public debate be initiated on child-rearing in the 21st century this issue should be central to public policy-making in coming decades.

(emphasis added)
- Letter to the Daily Telegraph (and response here)

Perhaps it is time we not only address the welfare of our children, but also of ourselves. When is the last time you engaged in an activity not related to work, school, socialization with the opposite sex (or same for those of you who swing that way), or personal gain? Oops.. too late

It appears I'm too late on this one too

I feel that architects, especially academics and students, are at the greatest risk as we are all rallying under the same deluded masochistic banner of production; it might be curious to ask how many times did the person with the better project lose to the one who spent 86 sleepless hours working on theirs? Very rarely does this happen in my experience because the one who spent endless hours throwing together pieces of cardboard and hoping the form looks good are far less invested in their design then those who approach it from a philosophical and/or intellectual framework. Architecture is of the world and we need to experience it in its fullness so that we may adequately design for it instead of just sexing up form in the solitary confinement of our studios.

Play is immersion, training, understanding, action, and so much more that adds up to the common denominator of life.

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