People will ask me two questions when they found out I have written a book and they are why did I do it and how did I come up with the idea?
The first one is simple I have been working in the childcare industry for over 35 years and I am a parent (although my own children are grown up now, I live with my partner and she has two children, 5 and 12) I observe them in the role play area and see how they use their awesome imagination to develop adventures that are far more amazing than the provocations will fill these areas with, all they need sometimes is an adult nudge to set them on their path such as a sheet over the table. I wanted children to continue to pursue this type of play through their imagination rather than being a slave to an electronic screen. Parents are often under pressure for their children to be school ready and when they are at school to be ready for the next level, the children never have a chance to be a child. There is too much pressure put on children and parents for structure learning and the value of learning through play is often dismissed. On this adventure, children encounter cave people who have awesome paintings on their walls and have no schools or colleges but learn new skills through the joy of play.
How did I come up with the idea? Well, this idea like all ideas I have will appear in my head usually when I get a chance to switch off, I like to go for long bike rides around London early on a Saturday morning, the idea stays there baking in the oven that is my head until it is ready to write down. Children have been den building since the dawn of time so in all honesty, it was not difficult.
I worked on the book with a fantastic illustrator called Jeanine Henning who is based in South Africa and will ensure that the pictures that I have in my head are translated exactly to the page. During the lockdown, I was fortunate enough to be picked up by a fantastic and very patient publishing group who have held my hand through the whole process (and still are now)
Children do not need a lot of promoting to engage in den play, just space when they can be interrupted I recently visited a nursery in Surrey and read the story to a group of children who already had a passion for den building, they built the den with me and provided a campfire. After reading the book they wanted to paint pictures of the night sky and write letters of their own. We all had to dress as superheroes in the den to hear the story.
Children will have time for structured learning when they are ready and engage with electronic devices that will offer some options to answer questions about the world around them. However, for now, let them be children and let them escape from the real world to one that they have control of and are happy to be part of. Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”
So in these tough times that even us as adults are struggling to comprehend let our children escape, Down in the Den.