Among the many insights into free play in this article from Quartz is the possible relevance of this experience for the future. There’s a lot of talk circulating about ‘surviving’ artificial intelligence‘s takeover, especially in the world of work. Some of the thinking behind free or ‘risky’ play is that it develops the uniquely human characteristics that machines can’t mimic. While the homogeneity and wider societal impact of Denmark’s policies cannot simply be transplanted, the basic principles might have something for all of us to consider.
Heidi Vikkelsø Nielsen needed to find an image to show what childhood looks like in her country. The former teacher and current professor of education in Denmark settled on one of a young girl gleefully wielding a very sharp saw. “I think it captures perfectly how we think about childhood,” she says.
Adults appreciate that children learn by doing, not by being taught, she adds. So adults—both teachers and parents—generally get out of the way to let children do what they love: run, jump, climb, dig, hide, run, and, apparently, do some light carpentry.
At a forest playground on the outskirts of Copenhagen, kids are encouraged to build fires. At an urban playground in the city, kids cycle around a mini-version of Copenhagen with kid-sized bike lanes, pint-sized street lights, and mini-walkways. As a school principal told Nielsen: “We are trying to embrace the child in an adult world.”