(K. Brent Tomer),
“PLAY,” wrote August Herman Francke, a 17th-century pedagogue, “must be forbidden in any and all of its forms”. His dour attitude towards child’s play is now out of fashion; teachers and psychologists recognise the benefits and the necessity of make-believe. Not only does it allow children to experiment with responsibility, freedom and risk away from the strictures of adults, but by making up worlds and scenarios, children improve certain cognitive functions.
Attitudes towards play have shifted dramatically over the centuries. Francke’s suspicion of play was eclipsed by the Romantics’ idealised notions of childhood, which linked the activities of children with those of artists and poets. To writers such as William Wordsworth and George Gordon Byron, childhood was a time of high innocence and hope. In “The Sorrows of Young Werther” (1774), Johann Goethe’s eponymous hero muses that “the grown-up should wander about this earth like children without knowing whence they come, or whither they go, influenced as little by fixed motives, but guided like them by biscuits, sugar-plums.”
In the 20th century, the saccharine admiration for childhood fused with…Continue reading