Free Play: the benefits

The importance of Free Play has been well researched, and it plays a crucial role in child development. But why?

Healthy brain development is reliant on Free Play, because by using their creativity, children develop imagination, agility, cognitive and physical abilities. Those skills, in turn, support children in their academic learning.

Many studies, including the following excerpt from a paper published by NCBI, back these research findings:

“In play, children learn to navigate their physical and social environment, while also imagining and constructing new realities. They practice solving problems, testing out how to love, what is wise, and what is safe. One study found that, neurologically, play can stimulate the “fight or flight” response without triggering cortisol (the stress chemical usually accompanying fight or flight) — a useful way to practice handling danger.”

Free Play can be described as “unstructured, child-initiated activity that allows children to develop their imagination while exploring and experiencing the world around them. It is the spontaneous play that comes naturally from children’s natural curiosity, love of discovery, and enthusiasm”.

Examples of free play include dressing up, creating stories with toys, drawing and painting, making a den, role playing, creating new games, building Lego – and anything else that derives from a child’s imagination.

How does Free Play benefit child development?

  • Encourages creativity
  • Develops decision-making and problem solving skills
  • Fosters independence by teaching children to think for, and entertain, themselves
  • Develops motor planning skills, helping the child to create and carry out ideas and activities
  • Develops collaborative social skills, teamwork, compassion and kindness
  • Provides an opportunities for children to discover their interests and skills

It’s a well-known fact that children are highly motivated to play! As they’re growing up, it’s important to provide a caring environment that allows children to explore academic and social concepts freely.
Almost all cognitive and physical learning and development comes through play, and the more access given to Free Play, the more a child’s way of playing will grow in complexity.

So, how do we apply this at Wild.Kind.? The importance of Free Play is key to our structure. We ensure that children have lots of time to move, explore, use their motor skills and interact through Free Play. We believe that by having the freedom to do these things, children will have richer experiences in their childhood. And if they are happy beings, they will better be ready for school and all the exciting challenges that come with growing up. Find out more in our philosophy.

“The ultimate end of education is not a perfection in the accomplishments of the school, but fitness for life; not the acquirement of habits of blind obedience, and of prescribed diligence, but a preparation for independent action.”
Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi

Nutrition: the early years

Nutrition: Early Childhood Years – the way children eat fundamentally shapes their overall future development, health, growth and learning achievements.

In the first five years of life, your child’s brain develops more and faster than at any other time in their life, and during the first six years of their lives the brain is twice as active than that of an adult’s.

As caregivers, it’s our responsibility to be good role models and help children to develop healthy eating habits early on in their lives. 60% of nutrition is used by the brain during the first year of life, and 30% by age three. Let that sink in. That’s huge! This is why what children eat is so crucial and why early learning exposure to nutritious food plays an essential role in fostering mental development.

Alongside genes and the environment, nutrition is one of the three biggest factors that impact a child’s development. Research studies show that nutrition in a child’s early years is linked to their health and academic performance in later years.

That’s the main finding of a new study from two University of Pennsylvania researchers: Jianghong Liu, an associate professor in Penn’s School of Nursing and Perelman School of Medicine, and Adrian Raine, the Richard Perry University Professor of Criminology, Psychiatry and Psychology. They published their results in the journal Maternal & Child Nutrition.

This information is further backed by many worldwide studies, including an in-depth paper cited on The National Centre for Biotechnology Information, which states:
“The pre-school years (i.e., 1–5 years of age) is a time of rapid and dramatic postnatal brain development, i.e., neural plasticity, and of fundamental acquisition of cognitive development i.e., working memory, attention and inhibitory control. Also, it is a time of transition from a direct maternal mediation/selection of diet-based nutrition to food selection that is more based on self-selection and self-gratification.

During this time, children’s spoken vocabulary increases significantly; they gain greater motor coordination, and they are able to engage in tasks for slightly longer periods. Additionally, this age period is characterised by a time of transition from direct maternal control of infant nutrition to indirect maternal control in which infants do not procure their own nutrition, but they begin to assert increasing autonomy regarding what they eat. The toddler and preschool years are generally considered to be the most difficult phase of life to study because toddler performance is influenced by factors that are outside of experimental control such as emotional state, motivation, persistence, and comprehension of instructions.”

Providing nutritional choices and encouraging healthy eating habits is crucial to ensure development in a number of ways for your child, including:

  • Emotional and social – to mature and form relationships with others.
  • Cognitive – to make connections, develop language skills and gain short and long-term memory
  • Physical – including height and weight.

Nutrition: Early Childhood Years
With all this in mind, at Wild.Kind., we attach importance to seasonal, regional and organic ingredients to provide a biologically valuable vegetarian diet for all the children. 
Good things from nature taste great and make us feel great! For more information please contact us.

Sustainability Education: Creating a Better Future for our Planet

Sustainability Education: We believe that it’s vital to teach children from a young age about their environment and the impact they have on creating a better future for our planet.

“Within the last decade, there has been growing recognition of the importance of Environmental Education for young children. Because of the importance of early childhood education in laying a sound intellectual, psychological, emotional, social, and physical foundation for development and lifelong learning, Environmental Education for young children is described as having enormous potential in fostering values, attitudes, skills, and behaviours that support sustainable development”. {Ref – MDPI}

According to the 2018 Environmental Performance Index, Switzerland is ranked number one in the world for its achievements in sustainability and environmental conservation”. It’s important that we, as a community, continue these great efforts to keep our country as sustainable as possible.

Sustainability education can be fun, engaging and empowering for children. It nurtures their knowledge, skills, values and motivates action, also allowing them to take responsibility for their own actions and contribute to a sustainable future. It also encourages connection with each other and the environment that they live in, increasing awareness of their footprint on earth and setting a foundation for an environmentally responsible attitude into adulthood.

Some of the ways we encourage sustainability at Wild.Kind:

  • Discussing and practicing recycling
  • Spending time in nature every day
  • Herb growing projects
  • Serving vegetarian meals of mainly organic, seasonal and regional origin
  • Talking about, and practicing, conserving water and energy
  • Encouraging sharing and giving away toys, clothes and other items that the
  • children no longer use – participating in charity projects for children
  • Providing only vegan and animal cruelty-free hygiene products
  • Using non-prefabricated and natural play materials
  • The materials we use are recycled, ‘up-cycled’ or from sustainable sources

We continually add ways to teach children about being more sustainable, and creating a better future for our planet. For further information, visit our Philosophy page.

Our reference quote is from MDPI. A pioneer in scholarly open access publishing, MDPI has supported academic communities since 1996. Based in Basel, Switzerland, MDPI has the mission to foster open scientific exchange in all forms, across all disciplines. 217 diverse, peer-reviewed, open access journals are supported by over 35,500 academic editors.

There are many reasons why teaching compassion is important for childhood development.

Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy for another who is affected by misfortune or suffering, coupled with a powerful desire to alleviate that pain.

Teaching children compassion is a vital part of their childhood learning journey – and a skill that will help them throughout their life.

Through learning the importance of compassion, children will learn how to be kind to themselves, others and help those in need. As part of a broader skill set, compassion will help them think creatively in situations, make decisions that inspire their personal journey, and pursue life with purpose.

Helping children understand what others are feeling, the impact of their own actions and the reasons behind why someone might feel a certain way is a valuable life skill for children because it:

  • Encourages kindness, patience, acceptance and tolerance of the self and others
  • Cultivates a better understanding of others
  • Builds stronger relationships with other children
  • Promotes social harmony and, as a result, lowers risks of bully-ish behaviour.

How do we help children develop compassion at Wild.Kind?

First and foremost, we provide an environment that encourages care and compassion for ourselves and each other. We also share and promote the passion for kind interaction with each other, with nature and all other inhabitants of this earth, whether two-, four- or even multi-legged.

We also take the time to:

  • Encourage children to talk about their feelings, which helps them understand themselves as well as others
  • Be open with children about how they’re feeling and why, to help them express their emotions through language
  • Encourage care for animals and plants to help children understand their important role in helping other living things survive, thrive and be happy
  • Teach children why negativity towards others can cause negative outcomes, which helps them learn about taking the perspective of somebody else and how to empathise
  • Deepen their understanding of how to care for the environment by encouraging their involvement in the playschool’s paper and plastics recycling program.

We truly believe these are just a few of the reasons why teaching compassion is important for childhood development. You can find out more about the Wild.Kind. philosophy on this page.

The importance of Play

“Pulling the grass does not make it grow faster”

– African proverb.

In the Wild.Kind. Compassionate Playschool, free play is one of the key elements and we hope to ensure free space to the children which they need in order to develop into happy and resilient beings equipped with a rucksack full of social, cognitive and emotional skills – ready to discover the world.

In this short piece we provide you with some of the reasoning behind our philosophy of allowing children to be children, and to learn valuable social skills through play.

The obsession with optimization and early learning throughout childhood cannot be overlooked in today’s performance-driven society. Even the very smallest members are exposed to massive stress due to full schedules. Interestingly, not one study could yet prove that early reading or mathematics instruction, or the weekly course in Babysignlanguage or Babyenglish, lead to language or mathematician geniuses or outstanding scholars later in life.

Children who have been exposed to early learning classes might have a head start compared to the other children but countless studies show that this advantage wears off pretty quickly. The intense preparation, the pressure and the excessive expectations towards the children lead to those same children tending more frequently to later performance anxiety, motivational problems, difficulties in bonding with peers of same age or even to depression.

“Fact is that intelligence grows through freedom, and numerous studies prove that children mostly need this freedom and enough time to engage with themselves and other children in a playful way” says Prof. Dr. Stamm. Playing is a central development-motor as the educationalists emphasize. But parents are made to believe that they have to prepare their children for the global academic competition, and this as early as possible. Specialists all over the globe consider the obsession with early learning in childhood as harmful for the development of the children.

“Children actually need love, and parents that are present and empathetic. They need other kids and adults and an environment in which they can actively get engaged” so the experts say.

“Parents should not forget that the social environment is a much stronger determiner for brain development than any academic training” so Prof. Dr. Zimpel. Children learn nearly everything through play. It leads to a healthy development in all crucial areas (cognitive, emotional, social, creative and motoric) and serves as a first tool with which children can process their interests, fears, deceptions and concerns.

So does beginning the learning of mathematics, reading, writing and science a couple of years later have a negative impact on children’s development and their likelihood to fulfil their potential? We will let you build your own opinion… But perhaps a look at Finland’s prime minister Sanna Marin, the youngest ever in the world at age 34, where children start school later than in most other developed countries, says it all.

References:

Prof. Dr. Margrit Stamm (2019). Lasst die Kinder los. München: Piper Verlag GmbH.

Prof. Dr. phil. Andrea Lanfranchi (2014). Frühförderung mit Risiken und Nebenwirkungen. Kleinkinder im Stress. Aargauer Zeitung.

Prof. Dr. Margrit Stamm (2014). Frühförderung als Kinderspiel. Ein Plädoyer für das Recht der Kinder auf das freie Spiel. Dossier 14/5. Swiss Education Bern.

Prof. Dr. André Zimpel (2013, 3. Aufl., 2012, 2. Aufl., 2011, 1. Aufl.): Lasst unsere Kinder spielen! Der Schlüssel zum Erfolg. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Prof. Dr. Margrit Stamm (2012). Zeitungsartikel: Überförderte Kinder: Lieb und teuer. Bilanz.

Prof. Dr. Margrit Stamm is Prof. emeritus for Educational Psychology and Educational Sciences at the University of Fribourg, founder of the University Center of Early Childhood Development in Fribourg and currently Director of the Swiss Education Research Institute.

Prof. Dr. phil. Andrea Lanfranchi is a former schoolmaster, Child Psychologist and special needs Therapist, University lecturer and Director of the Nationalfonds-Study „Förderung ab Geburt: ZEPPELIN 0-3“.

Prof. Dr. André Zimpel is Professor for Educational Sciences at the University of Hamburg with focus on intellectual development and (special needs) education as well as neurodiversity and neuropsychology, anthropology, play theory and learning difficulties. Furthermore he is Psychologist and Psychotherapist.  

After much sweat, a little blood, and only a few tears (from a certain little person this morning who insisted on cycling to the play school with mummy to make the final preparations), we are opening our doors to our brand new, compassionate and sustainable play school TODAY!

The initial responses have been just what we hoped and dreamed for – excitement in their eyes when they arrive, much laughter and running around in the spacious rooms, and not wanting to leave! We look forward to welcoming our little people and to sharing memorable times with them over the next years as they develop.

A huge thank you to all who have made this possible and put up with our impossible requirements in such a short time. Without your belief in our vision and passion, and ensuring that the values of our concept are implemented in all of our preparatory work, this would not have been possible.

Special mentions go to:

  • Raphi Schäfer – extraordinary in your commitment, multi-talented and our hero
  • Schmidlin AG Elektro – for lending us Raphael for so long and sourcing us the very best equipment
  • Mike Picker – architect, building project manager and Zen master!
  • A-Team – ensuring our values of sustainability and close-to-nature could be applied even to our flooring (it’s cork!)
  • All of our friends and family who have supported wherever they could, and shared our excitement
  • Zoë, for your understanding for all of the time we have had to spend on this project, as chief taster of the vegetarian lunch menus. You are our inspiration.
  • Those parents and children who share our views on compassion and sustainability, and trusted us enough to commit to starting with us today before we could even show you the premises!
  • The Humble Co. – so happy to have found a supplier with such values, sustainable products and good cause
  • Several others who we know are too humble to want to be named, but we want you to know we appreciate you very much!

Nici, Séverine, Nadine & Daniel

“Children who are raised on healthy vegetarian or vegan diet have a reduced risk for heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and other conditions.”

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

The food preferences children develop early on are likely to remain stable for life: extensive studies show that the foods kids prefer at two years old are largely the same at twenty years old! We have a huge opportunity and responsibility to make sure those early habits are healthy ones.

At Wild.Kind. we provide nutritious plant-based meals to nurture and encourage children to consciously eat well for their health and for our planet.

In line with our own ethical beliefs – and the rather mind-blowing fact that the campaign is led by an impressive and determined 12 year-old! – we found this an inspirational feature in The Guardian today.

“Environmental campaigners have issued a challenge to Pope Francis: go vegan for Lent and receive $1m for the charity of his choice.
The purpose of the Million Dollar Vegan campaign is to encourage people to eat less meat and dairy in order to fight climate change. Global warming cannot be beaten without huge cuts in meat eating in rich nations, research shows, while reducing consumption of animal products also tackles pollution and the destruction of forests and wildlife.

The Pope, leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, has been outspoken on environmental issues. “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic [and] political,” he said in his 2015 encyclical. He also told the UN in the same year: “The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species.”
Butler, from Long Beach, California, has been vegan since the age of six and has staged many protests against animal cruelty. She said there were many reasons for eating a plant-based diet.

The 12-year-old has staged protests against animal cruelty.
“There is an animal side, a health side and an environmental side,” she told the Guardian. “If I tell people about the damage that the animal agriculture industry is doing to the planet, then some of them want to go vegan. I also tell them about health and how when you go vegan it can help prevent cancer, heart, disease and diabetes, or how animals have to die or suffer.”
The campaign is backed by celebrities including Paul McCartney, the actor Mena Suvari, the musician Moby and naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham. Young environmental protesters are becoming increasingly high profile, with Greta Thunberg’s school strikes for climate inspiring tens of thousands of other students to follow suit.
In her message to Pope Francis, Butler says: “In your encyclical letter, Laudato si’, you stated that every effort to protect and improve our world will involve changes in lifestyle, production, and consumption. I agree with all my heart and seek your support in tackling one of the largest underlying causes of the problems we face: animal agriculture.”

Matthew Glover, CEO of Million Dollar Vegan and who co-founded the Veganuary campaign, said the Pope had been selected for his environmental leadership and influence, particularly in South America, where great forests continue to be cut down.

“We are launching this deliberately bold, audacious campaign to jolt our world leaders from their complacency,” Glover said. “We are thankful that Pope Francis has spoken out and that is why we are humbly asking him to try vegan for Lent, and set an example of how each of us can align our principles of caring and compassion with our actions.”
The $1m has been donated by the Blue Horizon International Foundation, the charitable arm of the Blue Horizon Corporation, which invests in companies producing plant-based foods and aims to “accelerate the removal of animals from the global food chain”.
Lent is a period of about 40 days that ends just before Easter and during which many Christians practise abstinence of some kind. It reflects the Bible story of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert and in 2019 runs from 6 March to 18 April. The Vatican had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Daniel Hale, at the Catholic aid agency Cafod, said: “Pope Francis has been the standout world leader on climate change this decade. Like all Christians, the Holy Father will make his own choices about how to give, act and pray this Lent.
“It’s a period of reflection for all Catholics and a chance for us to respond to the Pope’s call for us to live a simpler and more sustainable lifestyle in various ways,” he said. “For some, that will mean cutting down on meat, while others are switching to renewable energy or campaigning for action to reduce emissions.”
Packham said: “We’ve made an enormous mess of this precious little planet in all sorts of ways. [Million Dollar Vegan] is important, brilliant and audacious. If the head of the Catholic church can be vegan for [Lent], think of the message that will send to all of those followers across the world.”

Butler’s activism began early. “When I was about to turn four I asked my mom about where we got our chicken nuggets from, because I would always eat them,” she said. “I was devastated. I told her that I never wanted to eat meat again. But I still love chicken nuggets – the vegan version – and I love vegan mac’n’cheese.”

An excellent piece of writing by Patty Born Selly, shared via Natural Start.

“Research shows that humans’ innate interest in animals is biological: we are drawn to species that are “other” than human and in many cases have an instinct to want to care for or nurture creatures that are small and vulnerable.

In 1984 E.O. Wilson, a biologist, introduced the idea of “biophilia”-that innate affinity we humans have for other living things. In recent years, many early educators have recognized this affinity in young children and have embraced a philosophy that includes lots of living natural materials in the classroom (such as plants and flowers), nature-based play areas with landscape features that include lots of vegetation, and providing plenty of outdoor time for children.  Children can truly thrive when allowed extended periods of time in natural settings that are full of life. A “biocentric” approach to early care and education means more than just providing opportunities for nature play however. It can—and should—include opportunities for children to connect with living animals.

Unlike adults who tend to value animals for what they can provide (food, leather, wool), or how they can serve us (as companions), children tend to value animals simply because they are. They recognize the intrinsic value of animals—that simply because they are living creatures, they are important.

When children are outdoors and are visited by an animal or when they enter an animal’s space (nature) they feel lucky. It’s as if they’ve been invited into a special world. Bringing a child to a wild place, a wooded park or even just a schoolyard, where there are opportunities to encourage wildlife sightings or other kinds of connections, can help children develop that innate love for animals. An added benefit? A growing body of research shows that children who are supported in their love for animals tend to generalize that love to other living things, such as plants and nature. Research also shows that when children are encouraged to care for animals, they tend to be more sensitive and caring toward other people as well. So by supporting children’s love for animals, you’re helping nurture those all-important feelings of connection and stewardship as well.

Supporting children in their growing awareness and interest in animals can lead to deeper feelings of empathy in young children, more positive classroom relationships, and social-emotional development.  As children have experiences with animals, they learn about differences and similarities, needs (such as for food, shelter, water and space), and compassion and empathy can grow and deepen.”