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Sunny days offer adults and children alike the freedom to play, says Cathy Nutbrown

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Professor Cathy Nutbrown

Children have enjoyed the recent sunshine and the freedom it brings to play outdoors and use copious amounts for water to splash, jump in and move around without the need for the wellies and rain coats. The change in the weather has brought more opportunities for freedom outside – and smiles to more faces.

Summer may not be quite here yet, but the early May reminder of the pleasures that warm weather brings was welcome. It reminded me of my own seaside summers, which also included many days huddled in a blanket because it was so cold, or squeezed (with several other family members) into a tiny beach hut. It was summer so we went to the beach – ‘rain or shine’.

Sunny days somehow seem to make people more playful. In my own city, the dancing fountains in a large open public space are an invitation to run in and out of the spouting water jets, and the shrieks of laughter bear testament to the pleasure such spontaneous water play brings for people of all ages.

Young children need every opportunity to enjoy outdoor spaces, rain or shine, but there is a particular joy when they can feel the warmth of the sun on their backs and enjoy the lifting of spirits that arrives with the sun.

The decision by Government to rethink the flawed baseline assessment policy felt like the clouds were parting and the sun was beginning to shine through. It is still not clear what assessment policies in the early and primary years will be introduced, but I hope future policies are more properly grounded in a deep understanding of pedagogy and a more sensitive consideration of young children and the many changes they have to cope with as they begin school.

It is crucial that we stay focused on a real appreciation of young children and their wonderful capacity to play – without an imposed adult rubric. When children play, they invent, collaborate, argue, resolve disputes, develop rules and make stories – the list is endless. And we adults must provide them with the time and space – unencumbered – to blossom in that openness of possibility.

Play, and no less play in the outdoor sunshine, lifts the clouds of mind and soul. And of course we know that even on the dullest of days, there is sunshine – we just need a break in the clouds.

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