Front and center in the main room of the Providence Children’s Museum is a quote from the inimitable Tom Sawyer:
Seeing this quote–from one of the hardest-working, playful characters I know–juxtaposed with my own children engaged in the nearby exhibits got me thinking about the concepts of work and play.
Watching children in a children’s museum–or on a playground, or in their own backyard–it is clear that their bodies are doing what they’re “obliged to do.” In other words, for a child, what looks to be mere play is actually work. It’s their work.
As they start to discover the properties of water
or engage in a physics experiment
or consider geometric shapes
they are working. And hard at that. Put a child in a children’s museum and watch them run, and you can’t help but notice how completely they are compelled to move, to learn, to discover.
We might call it play; they might even call it play–but I’m going to defer to Tom Sawyer on this one. This is work–obligatory, serious, hard work.
So, if you’re looking for me at the children’s museum, you’ll find me unobtrusively holding up one of the walls–because far be it from me that I should interfere with anyone’s important work.