At The Lion and The Mouse, we like to play. As educators and play enthusiasts, we spend a lot of time thinking about play, play spaces and how we can support children while giving them the freedom to explore, create and learn. We hope that you’ll join us as we reflect on play, early learning and what it means to build a child-friendly world.
Arthur Battram once said, “Through play we become human.” With that in mind, we thought it only fitting to introduce ourselves, Megan, Grace, Cam and Margaret, through our favorite play spaces. Welcome. It’s nice to meet you.
Megan: When I moved to Gibbons, Alberta, from a smaller town elsewhere at the age of 8, my family befriended one of the town founders, who owned farmland about a block from my house. With her permission, I started exploring this area with my family, and as I got a bit older, with my best friend Karrolann. The place we especially loved was an area with three old abandoned pioneer homesteads (mostly ripped down but with plenty of old artifacts and wood), which became a central tenet in our play for years. We constantly built and rebuilt tree houses, using the wood and the old pioneer artifacts, which would then be destroyed by local teenagers, but we didn’t mind rebuilding. The surrounding fields and river valley were also central in our play, and we played “at the farm” until I moved to a new town at the age of 14. Being away from the adult gaze and in open space evokes many memories and sentiments of joy, freedom, creativity and strength that I feel fortunate to have experienced.
Grace: I was not a very active child. I liked most to disappear into daydreams, imagining all sorts of beautiful things. When I was small, there were no houses across the road, but rather a meadow. In my memories, it was always filled with sunshine. Il poussait dans ce pré des chicorées sauvages (mes préférées), des épervières orangées, asters, mauves, vesces jargeaux, trefles, pissenlits, rudbeckies tardives, carottes sauvages… à n’importe quel moment libre, je suppliait mes parents pour qu’ils m’accompagnent à travers la rue (défendu de la traverser toute seule) pour que je puisse m’installer dans ce petit coin sauvage. Enfin arrivée, je m’installait par terre, les fleurs, les feuilles, les tiges m’entourant, et je les examinait minutieusement. Toujours reveuse, je regardait les petits papillons aux ailes blancs qui virevoltaient autour et les coccinelles qui (si j’avais de la chance) choisissaient d’aterrir sur mon corps. Je regardait les oiseaux qui passaent au dessus, je me demandais à quoi ressemblaient leurs trajets, leurs migrations. Je m’allongeais sur le sol pour mieux observer les nuages. Des heures de mon enfance se sont écoulées comme ceci, immobile, nourrie par la nature et l’imagination.
Cam: My favourite place to play as a child was a large protected provincial park near Chatham, Ontario, Canada where I grew up – a forested beach-surrounded peninsula on Lake Erie called Rondeau. My Grandparents used to have a cottage there before it was sold, right up against one of the main stretches of beach. The back door and porch of the cottage led immediately onto the beach, with a fire pit for our nightly bon fires a few feet away. The front of the cottage looked onto a narrow one-lane road, on the other side of which was an enormous expanse of forest, full of endless trails to explore. I always remember experiencing the world vividly through the feeling of the ground beneath my bare feet. I could quickly go from being barefoot on the forest floor, to onto the hot or cool parts of asphalt (some parts shadowed, some exposed) of the road in front of the cottage. And I could go from the soft grass of the lawn in front of the cottage, to inside the cottage itself on the retro shag-carpeted floors. Outside the backdoor of the cottage I could run onto the beach, then into the big clusters of reeds and tall grass closer to the water. Out on the wet brown sand, I traced the soft lines created by the lake with my big toe. I could then fully submerge my feet in the waters of the huge lake before usually throwing my whole, sometimes fully clothed body into the water.
Margaret: When I was a kid, we used to play in a place called The Back Forest. In The Back Forest, a piece of undeveloped woods behind the neighborhood houses, we fluctuated between explorers and homesteaders. We built forts, outhouses, and fields and even dammed the creek to irrigate our crops. We dreamed of one day being self-sufficient, in our own separate version of the world where we could just be. Of course, we weren’t the only kids out there. As we got older there was tension between groups over the best trees and the best spaces. We took up trail and map-making to mark out our territory, but didn’t put nearly as much effort into them as we did into fortifying our fort against raids. Half the fun of having our own space was having to defend it, all in time for dinner.
We hope that our stories have given you a glimpse into who we are and the passion for play we look forward to sharing with you. We encourage you all to share your own special play spaces with us and to let the children in your lives share theirs with you. Thank you for reading and happy playing!
 As quoted by Penny Wilson in “The Playwork Primer: 2010 Edition”.