Diaphanous Kid’s Play

I did the painting above in my senior year in art school. It is a self-portrait that reproduced one I did on my bedroom wall when I was ten years old. The metaphor of flying is a consistent feature of most children’s dreams. Often, dream flight starts with sheer terror as you are flung from a great height. It may take a few panic awakenings to learn to hold your arms out and fly. This is the moment that many kids realize that they can control their dreams.

Because we tend to create play spaces to be durable and low maintenance, the inclusion of loose parts tends to, for the most part, follow this paradigm as well. Whatever the reason, the primary fabrics found in early childhood centers tend to be in butterfly wings and capes. This is a shame because diaphanous materials add a unique and very valuable element to children’s play. To demonstrate this, I’d like to introduce you to three educator-artists who will take you on a journey of imagination and fantasy. To learn more about these incredible women, visit their social media sites.

Penny Wilson

At the Kings Cross Adventure Play program fabrics are a big deal.

You can go to http://www.Instagram @playkx or http://www.Medium.com/@playkxto to our work in Kings Cross. Similarly Instagram @pennywilsonspictures. A way to get a sense of Penny’s professional and art work is to visit: https://www.instagram.com/playkx/?hl=en or
www.theinternationale.com/pennywilson
takes you to  a big collection of writing and free to download books.

This is the entrance to the Fairy Castle

Suzanne Axelsson

Suzanne’s website is chock full of great stuff, https://www.interactionimagination.com/. Her close-up nature photography is particularly impressive. The best place to get a sense of her work with diaphanous materials is her Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/interactionimagination/?hl=en

Sarah Lee

The presntation of fabric is as important as the material itself.

While not an educator per se, Sarah started doing play silks for her son’s Waldorf School. Twenty-five years later, she is a successful entrepreneur marketing her silks and toys in many parts of the world. Her website is https://www.sarahssilks.com/collections/playsilks. And Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/sarahssilks

I hope you’ve taken the time to peruse the sites as this will prepare you for where I am going with this discussion.

Here’s the deal. Life is at the core, ephemral and transitory. The decades I’ve spent creating play settings for kids have been way too much about rocks and blocks. Children also need to experience the soft and fragile things in life. As playspaces incorporate more nature, this will get easier to do. Until then, we need to do the work of making such experiences part of our children’s experience. Yes, this can be challenging these days with the pandemic as it means, at a minimum, being able to sterilize materials. And then there is the cost of replacement when we don’t have enough support to provide the basics. My point is softness is just as basic as rocks and blocks.

As a kid, my dreams about flight were all about going fast. I loved the idea of a huge engine. Looking back, I should have paid more attention to the scarf in the wind.

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