A few months ago, my friend Melissa posted a photo of some toys laying on the landing of her stairs to her tumblr site with the caption, “evidence of play.” These words have crossed my mind many times since then. It seemed like the perfect descriptor for the signs we find of our children’s spontaneous activity in the land of make believe.
As Cora gets older, there are more and more times when she plays alone, for which I am very grateful. Working from home, I have learned to be very flexible and take advantage of opportunities to work as they arise throughout the day. I love the days when Cora heads to another room and gets deep into something so I can do the same. However, any parent of young children knows the simultaneous joy and fear of a quiet child. What’s she doing in there? I wonder (always in the voice of Tom Waits), and then go back to grading papers, hoping nothing gets broken before I check on her.
These sessions usually end with me cleaning up a mess. Cora is going through a major dumping phase where she tips over every bin of craft materials, blocks, or dolls clothes in her path. This was the result of a recent playdate.
But there are also moments when I find evidence of more thoughtful play. I love to pause and consider what was going on when they were created. Like Melissa sometimes, these still lives send me running for my camera. And apparently we’re not alone.
In April 2013, a group of 30 professional photographers started kids were here, a monthly virtual installation of images they made of the traces of their children’s playful activity. Early comments to the site showed that others wanted in on the game and the hashtag #kidswerehere took hold on twitter, Instagram, and flickr. Bloggers can add a KWH badge to their blog to show their participaton (check out mine in the sidebar). There is only one rule, “no kids, only evidence that they were there.”
I love this project. I love the democracy of it. I love the conceptual nature of it; “evidence of play” and “kids were here” suggest both presence and absence. I love how this practice puts Reggio practices into the hands of parents, documenting kids’ playful learning at home and around the world. As one of the featured photographers wrote:
“When I first began this project, I thought it would be fun to document the every day messes my children make. As the weeks have passed, this project has really become so much more than that.
It’s not really about messes at all, but about the stories they tell. It’s about traces of childhood I see throughout my home on a daily basis. It’s about the love we share together. It’s about living and being…creating, making, learning and trying. This project leaves me a beautiful story each month of the reminders that Kids are here now…and the time, well, its all too fleeting, isn’t it? We all need to embrace these moments and just live them too; because they really are the best moments of life.”
-Ginger Unzueta, June 2013
[Note: Shout out to Tina Thompson for putting kids were here on my radar.]