I am sure that pretty much everyone here has read the 1954 dystopian novel “The Lord of the Flies”? Well, if not, then you probably know the gist of it: young boys end up stranded on a deserted island and end up trying to govern themselves, ultimately devolving into barbarism. It is an interesting exploration of human nature and child psychology.
Such grim notions aside, child psychology is a curious thing and oddly enough, similar behaviours appear on the playground, though not nearly as extreme as the version presented in “Lord of the Flies”.
William Golding’s Lord of the Flies Summary
Children learn many of their social skills using play ground equipment
. The playground is unique because it allows children to socialise within a wide open field with minimal interactions with grown ups.
In fact, among my observations in the playground, I noticed that despite most children are left to their own devices despite having a guardian on the premises – parents, nannies, and nurses, will more often than not sit with a book or their phone, relaxing and allowing the children to play as much as they want. This gives rise to a unique phenomenon called children’s culture.
Understanding children’s culture
Children have their own unique brand of culture that comes from having a large number of youngsters congregate without any adult to govern them. The playground is filled with children’s culture, and it has often been parodied on television shows and cartoons.
Children have their own way of socialising with each other and sharing stories and games. Language is part of this – children tend to develop their own kind of slang that is recognizable only by other children on the same playground.
Children are self-governing
When children are left to their own devices, they naturally start forming a governing body of their own, just like in Lord of the Flies. Some children become “ring leaders” – they have gained the respect and attention of other children and come up with all of the games and activities that will be played by the group.
In fact, there are several rules that begin to manifest on the playground, both spoken and unspoken. For example, at the playground I was visiting, which was a unique DIY playground full of wooden planks and old mattresses, there is an unspoken rule that children should be brave and be willing to engage in risk taking behaviour – such as jumping off a scaffold and onto a mattress, in order to be accepted as part of the group.
Playground hierarchy and conformity
Eventually, children will form a kind of hierarchy – the most popular and well liked children will often be the standard that everyone else on the playground will strive for.
On the other hand, children who refuse to conform will often be shunned and bullied by his or her peers. Children have a very strong desire to conform and hope to be accepted by their peers, and those who are unable to satisfactorily conform become outcasts.
Effects of playground psychology on well-being
Despite bullying and conformity, this does not mean that children on playground devolve into the events of Lord of the Flies. The truth is that children who were left to freely interact at a playground tend to become more well-adjusted and eventually end up becoming more empathetic towards others in the long run.
Children who had a lot of play time are more aware of their surroundings and tend to become more helpful to others in need. It only goes to show how important physical play on a playground is.