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.


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.”

Helping young children to develop a strong sense of empathy is beneficial because:

It helps them to build a sense of security and stronger relationships with other children and educators, positioning them well for learning.

It encourages tolerance and acceptance of others.

It promotes good mental health.

We really resonate with, and would like to share, insight into the importance of teaching children kindness, written by Lisa Currie, Ripple Kindness Project.

“Most people have heard the phrase ‘random acts of kindness’, which refers to a selfless act of giving resulting in the happiness of another person. Terms like this are increasing in popularity around the world, as more people identify a deficiency in their lives that can only be fulfilled by altruism.
It seems we just can’t get enough of those addictive feel good emotions and with good reason.
Scientific studies have shown that kindness has a great number of physical and emotional benefits, and that children require a healthy dose of the warm and fuzzies in order to flourish as health, happy, well-rounded individuals.
Patty O’Grady, PhD, is an expert in the area of neuroscience, emotional learning, and positive psychology with special attention to the educational arena. She believes that “kindness changes the brain by the experience of kindness. Children and adolescents do not learn kindness by only thinking about it and talking about it. Kindness is best learned by feeling it so that they can reproduce it. Kindness is an emotion that students feel and empathy is a strength that they share.”
A great number of benefits have been reported to support the theory of teaching kindness in schools.

8 Reasons For Teaching Kindness In School

1. Happy Children
Science explains that the good feelings we experience when being kind are produced by endorphins that activate areas of the brain that are associated with pleasure, social connection and trust, and it’s proven that these feelings of joyfulness are contagious, encouraging more kind behaviour by the giver and recipient.

2. Increased Peer Acceptance
Research on the subject has determined that kindness increases our ability to form meaningful connections with others. Studies show that kind, happy children enjoy greater peer acceptance because they are well-liked and that better than average mental health is reported in classrooms that practice more inclusive behaviour due to an even distribution of popularity.

3. Improved Health and Less Stress  
It’s widely documented that being kind can trigger a release of the hormone oxytocin which has a number of physical and mental health benefits as it can significantly increase a person’s level of happiness and reduce stress. More recently though, it’s been found it plays a significant role in the cardiovascular system, helping protect the heart by lowering blood pressure and reducing free radicals and inflammation, which incidentally speed up the aging process.

4. Greater Sense of Belonging and Improved Self Esteem
Studies show that people experience a ‘helpers high’ when they do a good deed, a rush of endorphins that creates a lasting sense of pride, well-being and an enriched sense of belonging. Even small acts of kindness are reported to heighten our sense of well-being, increase energy and give a wonderful feeling of optimism and self worth.

5. Increased Feelings of Gratitude
When children are part of projects that help others less fortunate than themselves, it provides them with a real sense of perspective and helps them appreciate the good things in their own lives.

6. Better Concentration and Improved Results
As it increases serotonin, which plays an important part in learning, memory, mood, sleep, health and digestion, kindness is a key ingredient that helps children feel good. Having a positive outlook allows them greater attentions spans and enables more creative thinking to produce better results at school.

7. Less Bullying
Two Penn State Harrisburg faculty researchers, Shanetia Clark and Barbara Marinak say, “unlike previous generations, today’s adolescents are victimizing each other at alarming rates.” They argue adolescent bullying and youth violence can be confronted through in-school programs that integrate “kindness — the antithesis of victimization.”
Many traditional anti-bullying programs focus on the negative actions that cause children anxiety and often with little impact. Teaching kindness and compassion in schools, not only fosters the positive behaviour that creates warm and inclusive school environments, but helps children feel that they belong. It’s documented that the effects of bullying can be significantly reduced by integrating kindness based programs in schools.

8. Reduced Depression
Dr. Wayne Dyer, internationally renowned author and speaker, says research has discovered that an act of kindness increases levels of serotonin (a natural chemical responsible for improving mood) in the brain. It’s also found that serotonin levels are increased in both the giver and receiver of an act of kindness, as well as anyone who witnesses that kindness, making it a wonderful natural antidepressant.

Maurice Elias, a professor at Rutgers University Psychology Department says that “as a citizen, grandparent, father, and professional, it is clear to me that the mission of schools must include teaching kindness. Without it, communities, families, schools, and classrooms become places of incivility where lasting learning is unlikely to take place.
We need to be prepared to teach kindness, because it can be delayed due to maltreatment early in life. It can be smothered under the weight of poverty, and it can be derailed by victimization later in life. Yet despite these and other travails, the receipt of kindness and the ability to show kindness through service are both growth enhancing and soul cleansing.

Kindness can be taught, and it is a defining aspect of civilized human life. It belongs in every home, school, neighborhood, and society.”
It’s become quite clear that modern education must encompass more than just academics, that in order for children to develop into happy, confident, well-rounded individuals, matters of the heart must be taken seriously and nurtured as a matter of priority.”

Lisa Currie is the founder of Ripple Kindness Project, a community program and school curriculum that aims to improve social, emotional and mental health, and reduce bullying in schools through kindness.