Playgroups and the digital age

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by brizzle born and bred

In a world that see’s parents rushing to and from work, childcare has become a familair part of children’s lives before school, and television, that families once sat and consumed is increasingly used for playing interactive games, as developers increasingly invent ways for families to interact in the game, and out of it. So much so, the current esitmate is over $60 billion dollars of game sales this year.

Playgroups, despite the rise of digital media have endured in society – and are still a highly community based and organised way to socialise and play. While  formal pre-schools and schools have undergone radical change in response to technology, the playgroup continues to attract families though social-play, and suffer little of the criticism others face.

When my children were at this age, I took them to a playgroup each week while my wife was at work. In the same group we’re grand-parents doing similar. In the rise of commercial-consumer language the term ‘play school’ or ‘play group’ might sound old, yet something worthy of thinking about when it comes to getting school-age children, their parents and local community to engage in play-based-learning together.

In our Massively Mindcraft project, playing together as a social development activity is central to our mission. To play, to admire, to connect and to build confidence in both skills and ability. We have parents who never play games, playing with their children and others. It is proving to hold enduring attention from children who are supposedly notorious for flipping between one game and another.

One of the things many people remember about the developmental years, long after kids grow-up is play-group.

According to Families Australia there are more than five million families in Australia, each very diverse in composition and size. They identify some of the key issues facing many modern families as balancing work and family life; finding time to be together; ensuring children get the best start in life through effective parenting and child care; caring for older family members including grandparents; and keeping relationships strong. They also see staying connected with children as a challenge of particular interest to parents.

It seems obvious to me, that games are a global-playgroup. Yes people blow stuff up – but at the heart of them are open social structures, build upon play. It seems logical that play-groups don’t – and should not have a curfew at the age of 4 or 5, but as a method of social-learning and community organisation are proving an enduring and much loved part of life. Digital games enable ‘receive only’ television, not only to entertain, or occupy a child’s time, but are clearly the host of on-going playgroups. In our Minecraft worlds, we are seeing non-gaming parents playing, and in many cases re-connecting with play – and playing with their kids.

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