Spotlight On: Play

10 March 2023


This article first appeared in Queenwood Weekly News on Friday 10 March, 2023

We are more than halfway through the term and our daily routines are well established with co-curricular activities underway. Our schedules can be complex as we endeavour to make the most of every day.

With the plethora of co-curricular choice at Queenwood, it can be tempting to want your daughter to experience everything: drama, choir, dance, equestrian, fencing, sailing, debating, gymnastics and so much more. The challenge for parents is to strike a healthy balance which works for you, your daughter, and the family. Take a moment to review your weekly schedule and consider:
  • How are my energy levels?
  • How are my daughter’s energy levels? Is she coping with the current daily demands?
  • Is there an afternoon where she has no commitments?
  • Is there time for those precious conversations about your daughter’s school day? Do you create time to notice the good?
One feature the co-curricular offerings at Queenwood is that they are highly structured, goal-orientated, with explicit teaching of skills and guided practice. This is great for building confidence, capability and resilience in healthy competition but unstructured play is also essential.

In the Junior School we also place great emphasis on unstructured play which is creative and improvised with no set goal and unlimited possibilities. The beauty of unstructured play is that it offers sensory, physical and cognitive experiences and helps children to focus, build friendships, improve mood, work cooperatively, and work through conflict without adult intervention.

We are delighted with the recent installation of new play equipment in the Junior School.  The physical challenges include climbing, crawling, hanging, sliding, balancing and swinging at varying heights. We are encouraging the girls to explore and extend their physical capabilities taking sensible risks. There are cooperative elements such as the bird nest swing and flying fox where the girls can work together as well as little windows and spaces that are enticing for creative play.

Watching the girls enjoy this equipment is a joy and we are very grateful to those parents who supported our giving campaign and made this possible.

For some children, unstructured time can be challenging. That’s no reason not to do it – in fact, it’s just the opposite. We encourage a degree of discomfort so that the girl can work through having time and space to play and develop friendships at her own pace.

Away from school, unstructured time can be a challenge for both children and parents who will often be met with the complaint of “I’m bored!” At this point I am reminded of this Spotlight On: Boredom article where Ms Stone reminds us that boredom is not a problem to be solved but an opportunity to develop creativity, seek out meaning and purpose and develop problem-solving skills. Our job as teachers and parents is not to entertain our children, but to create conditions for them to entertain themselves. After that, it’s up to them.