The Land
“The Land” documentary

It might be hard for an adult to watch a kid handle a saw without interfering, but there’s good reason to let him figure it out on his own. And that’s the premise behind the fabled playground called The Land, where children run free, building and taking things part, using saws and drills, playing with fire, and getting dirt and mud all over them. They’re taking risks and even putting themselves in some danger in some cases. But that’s the whole point. Listen to this fascinating discussion on To The Best of Our Knowledge with The Land’s manager, Claire Griffiths, who tells us why it’s important to give kids a chance to take risks in order to learn.



You can read more about it here in a recent article in The Atlantic.

And for a visual introduction, take a look at a preview of the forth-coming documentary The Land by American filmmaker Erin Davis.

The Importance of Playing With Fire (Literally) from Play Free Movie on Vimeo.

  • Heike Larson

    So true! In a Montessori program, we teach children how to do all kinds of “dangerous” things capably and without injury. We teach preschoolers how to cut with sharp knives–with a carefully sequenced curriculum that starts with butter knives and soft items like bananas, and gradually continues to sharp knives and challenging things like pineapples by elementary.

    Someone once wrote that children need to learn judgement at some point–and that you want them to learn it way before the time they sit behind the wheel of a car.

    Bravo for reminding us about the benefits of allow children to be challenged physically and mentally, to take risks and to grow!

    • gericar

      Hummmm…… Adventure?

  • K P

    Why are you writing about the similar playground you have in your own backyard? The Adventure Playground at the Berkeley Marina…it’s a huge asset!

  • Robyn Hooper

    I love this idea! I completely agree about children being allowed to take risks. An adventure playground is a great concept, somewhere that children are supervised and allowed to be free. I am sure that this idea comes under a lot of scrutiny as there is an abundance of potential of damage to our children.

    However, our world is full of potentially danger, and our students have to learn somewhere to take a risk, start a fire, use tools. I think this is just one space where children should be allowed to take risks. I believe that in addition to this, there should be a space where a carpenter shows interested students how to properly hold tools, what they can make with certain materials. Or a space when an engineer comes in and uses teachable moments to show kids what they are really doing in “professional” terms. Our children are our future, why should we be waiting so long to allow them to take risks?

    I think that we could all leave a small space in our classrooms, or our schools for this to start, it doesn’t have to be a huge area, it could start with free play with scissors and glue. Or a certain area with hammers and nails. It has to start somewhere. On our playgrounds, if students were allowed (with no introduction) to use saws and hammers and nails, my first imagined thought goes to an image of students chasing each other with hammers and saws, launching them from the tops of trees. It’s quite scary. However, that is an image of students who have not been introduced to the risks of these materials. The danger comes when a child does not know how to use a dangerous tool. How many children in the United States are taught how to use a gun, so that they know the potential of the gun? I would be interested to know the figures on how many children know how to shoot a gun vs. how many children were taught to use a saw or a hammer?

  • grace caruso

    This is interesting. Finally an article that doesn’t involve “gaming.” This was somewhat popular in the 1960s if there is anyone old enough to remember that who can still read…. I think the “adventure playground” was a European thing before it moved, a bit, here. But it was never really popular, to unstructured and no huge cost. It would be great to reestablish the idea that kids are capable of play that doesn’t involve something electronic and that that play is developmentally appropriate. But of course, kids are “safer” sitting on the couch with their $300 whatsit. or playing in an organized sport … I think the idea was, that because most families don’t have the space or the equipment anymore, kids could do here what kids have always done; something that makes them feel useful, competent among their peers, and that allows them to practice the interaction skills of being an adult without their mommies. It was like this…. until we invented the dangerous world.

  • Kent

    Tremendous concept…teaching kids interpersonal accountability and consequences. WOW. In a similar vein, it’s too bad ‘we’ can’t turn our kids loose ‘in the neighborhood’ asking they be home before dark! Some of us remember those days. Parents felt their kids could be trusted to run like hell if a creep approached them. Kids knew they’d better be home on time or there would be ‘real’ consequences. Of course a parent was home when it got ‘dark’, to mete out instant discipline (if needed)…..and somehow most kids just wanted to ‘do the right thing’ even though it would be more fun to stay at their friends house ‘just a little longer’. Native Americans still let their toddlers play near a campfire, believing ‘falling in’ (for a second!) teaches them the danger (consequences) better than any warning or admonition to ‘stay away’!

  • Te Kiira Osborne

    At the risk of being a total know-all, carpentry – including saws – are standard here in New Zealand/ Aotearoa. As are mud play, sand play, messy play options including water, finger paints, bubbles, and gardening. I’m surprised to find any of these are viewed as innovations or alternates to mainstream. Thanks for the heads-up.

  • Amy

    In grew up with 4 brothers in the country and we played outside all the time and loved it. Channeling my inner child, I turned part of our backyard into a “construction site”, with future expansion ideas for this summer 😉 Our boys and their friends love it.

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