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Part of the Puzzle, Part of the Solution: The Heart of The Childhood Summit

Like most taglines, this is a pun and play on words. The image is used to highlight several important focuses at the heart of the mission of the Childhood Summit 2019.

Overall, the image of the heart, is the child’s heart. Made up of many pieces of modernity, this image is a widespread invitation for you. To come and be part of creating a new vision for childhood in Australia. 

If your part of the puzzle that makes up the complete picture of a healthy and balanced childhood, it means you are equally part of the problem and the solution, sharing in the responsibility to support children near and far.  

The Puzzle

The term 'Puzzle' is an intriguing and playful workd, which highlights several key points relevant to the Childhood Summit mission. 

  • Modern childhood is impacted by varying complexities 
  • Many individual pieces of the puzzle make up the full picture of modern childhood 
  • Individual areas or sectors of ‘modernity’ interlink, cross-over, and inevitably influence children’s worlds; their health, wellbeing, their trajectories, overall life satisfaction and the types of adults they will become. 
  • How much consideration is given for children’s motivations for play and their developmental needs, by those working across these sectors?  
  • How well are those working in these sectors, of these individual pieces of the childhood puzzle, supporting modern childhood? 

Barriers facing the young to have a healthy childhood cross many domains of society - education, health, infrastructure, community and environment to name few. 

Childhood is undergoing significant cultural change, largely relating to the affordance, permission and space for children to play. During early childhood, before and after school, during school, on weekends and during holidays, children are spending large amounts of incidental time indoors, sedentary, in solitude, or in highly structured extracurricular activities. Of course, there is the phenomenon of global wide-spread adoption of screen-based play as the new childhood play-norm. 

Overall, this has not been a conscious decision. Who would have known that removal or constriction of children’s ability to play would have such dire results? Who could have predicted the high cost of this significant cultural change to childhood - individually, socially and economically?  

Never have grown-up’s been so involved in influencing children’s play. So, is it a coincidence that never before there have been so many barriers for children to do something as simple as play?

We all love our young and are motivated by what we think is best for them. As the world rapidly changes, parenting changes to adapt to suit modern demands and the modern child’s needs.  

Restriction of children’s play are largely enacted in the home, but parental decisions relating to these barriers are highly influenced by modern messaging, policies and processes within trusted institutions and departments. They have backed grown-ups into corners, left with little options but to shrink the horizons of their children in the name of safety, security, supervision and education. 

However, fear seems to be at heart of modern childhood. How useful is this? Does it result in a balanced and healthy childhood, or support our children to grow into healthy and contributing adults? 

As grown-ups, it's a very important, but a tough, fact to face that we have created all the barriers that increase the difficulties for children to achieve wellness, be healthy, grow and develop on all sides. Most of these barriers start in the home, in the mind of the parent and come out of an overwhelming need to keep our children safe. Is has been unintended, but it has happened, and children are growing up scared of a world they don’t even know.

Policies, processes, procedures, rules and restrictions introduced by trusted departments and institutions are mostly created to keep us safe, but also to protect these departments and institutions against litigation. Which takes priority, safety or litigation mitigation? 

In the creation of these regulations, little consideration is given to the developmental needs of children or the motivations for children to play. Grown-ups have created many invisible walls for children, locking them into compromised and challenging futures.

The well-intentioned grown-ups have created complexities and barriers for children. It has never been so difficult for young ones to do something as simple as play. Now is time to come together, discuss how we are part of the problem, and begin creating the solutions. 

The Solution

Firstly, do we agree that modern childhood is facing a barrage of challenges from many areas, departments and institutions? This is the platform we need to stand on. One of ownership of our role in reducing children’s horizons.

If the answer is yes, then who is speaking up for children? Who is ensuring the powers in charge are considering the child when decisions, plans, designs, funding, laws and regulations are made? When and how is the child’s voice heard in the noise and busy-ness of our progressive society?

This is the mission for the Childhood Summit.    

Like all puzzles, all pieces are required to create a complete solution. All pieces of the puzzle need to come together, find their place in the solution, and keep children’s development at the heart of the matter, alongside safety. The Childhood Summit hopes to bring together the individual pieces of the puzzle, to join the mission and be part of the solution. 

Imagine an annual event, carving out space for the child’s voice to be heard on a plethora of issues. A refined opportunity for decisionmakers to consult with the major stakeholders - children. Imagine the positive possible change when members of our trusted departments and institutions, across all levels, come together collaboratively, making children the central focus. All these individuals, serving the many aspects of modern living, together, assuming their responsibility and finding their place in the heart of childhood.

Tackling challenges, making changes, big and small. Developing new and innovative processes and procedures, being creative for the betterment of childhood, short and long-term. Being creative in how children, most of whom are unable to express themselves, can be heard, understood and supported.   

Exploring the issues for children, hearing stories of innovation and success, examining latest research and hearing directly from young Australians is at the heart of the Childhood Summit. 

Much great work is happening for children across the country and the Childhood Summit will highlight and celebrate these achievements. 

Yet, so much still needs to be done. The solution is going to take a concerted effort, time, patience and willingness to remain focused, stay the course, creating a new vision for childhood. Keeping children central in our thinking, planning, designing and delivery, is at the heart of our efforts.

Again, if you are part of the puzzle of childhood, then you are both part of the problem and the solution.  

Hyahno Moser, Program Manager for Nature Play QLD


The Childhood Summit 2019 is proudly brought to you by Nature Play Australia, and hosted by Nature Play QLD.

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