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On 29th and 30th May, an assortment of 11 professionals came together at Equilibrium’s early years’ centre in Ruse to hear workshop leader, David Bisset, explain how “it takes great discipline to be as undisciplined” as he is. It was his way of explaining how he deliberately makes himself do things that children do naturally but adults tend to disregard. By doing this he improves his own professional performance as a person responsible for learning and development within Equilibrium.

The first of the workshops took place in early April and it included participants from other Balkan countries – Bosnia, Moldova and the Ukraine. They had come to explore aspects of play and its central contribution to cognitive, physical, social, emotional and spiritual development. The May workshop reviewed the main components of a very significant social and educational problem – play deprivation. Social and environmental factors conspire to rob children of their curiosity and playfulness (an outward sign of healthy development), while numerous barriers deprive young children of access to rich and varied opportunities for genuine free play. Psychiatrist Stuart Brown explains the typical profile of an adult who has failed to develop the resilience, emotional regulation and social intelligence that play provides. Children need to have developed these competencies before starting school. Trying to introduce academic discipline before children are developmentally ready (at age 6 0r 7) can actually interfere with the development of these life skills with serious consequences. Psychologist, Peter Gray describes the association between “coercive education” with a focus on testing and measuring performance and the growing body of research led by social psychologist Jean Twenge that shows the levels of anxiety disorder and childhood depression have been increasing steadily for over three decades.

The workshops will continue throughout 2018 and they will bring together different types of professional who have a stake in childcare or education. Groups will small and there will be a heavy accent on improvisation and play.

“Go and forage for stuff in the park. Bring back something that caught your eye. You know, the sort of thing a 4-year-old would spot and pick up. The sort of thing an adult would make the child leave outside on the doorstep.”

“You are all going out to buy the ingredients for lunch. I won’t eat anything unless the main colours on my plate are red and green.”

“Fly me to the moon, Let me play among the starts…….Create and perform your own song to celebrate childhood” (We have the videos.)

Think elastically. Bring creativity to your workplace. Make freedom and space for childlike engagement with the here-and-now. By doing so, you’ll help make the world a better place for children