Tim Gill is one of the UK’s leading thinkers on childhood, and an effective advocate for positive change in children’s everyday lives. For more than 20 years his writing, research, consultancy projects and other work have focused on the changing nature of childhood, children’s play and free time, and their evolving relationships with the people and places around them.
You may think that children today are growing up faster with exposure and engagement with adult culture but according to Gill (2007) “in relation to their everyday autonomy nothing could be further from the truth. For the past 30 years at least, childhood prior to adolescence has been marked by shrinking freedom of action for children, and growing adult control and supervision” (p. 12). Restricted outdoor play environments contribute to children’s lack of freedom to explore and engage with experiences that set the foundation for their self-regulation skills.
In 1971, eight of ten children aged seven or eight went to school on their own (Gill, 2007). Did you go to school on your own? How many children do you know today who go to school on their own? When children get to school, their time for breaks has shortened dramatically over time (Gill, 2007). When children are home from school, they are online, indoors, or engaged in organized group activities more than ever before. If this is the current context for childhood, learning to support risky play is an important role for early learning teachers.