The power of connection

Like it or loathe it, Australian (Aussie rules) Rules football is here to stay. Another season has ended with the Tigers defeating the Giants for the year just three days ago. In the interests of an unbiased view, I should declare now that I have been a Richmond supporter all my life. Not a die hard fan, but nevertheless I was born into a Tiger family.

Winning the second premiership inside of two years was just unthinkable a few years back. The laughing stock and at the bottom of the ladder, it was often easier not to discuss footy teams at all given the ribbing fans would cop.

Everyone has an opinion of a player, a team or a coach, but one thing certainly unites us as people collectively, and that is connection. Stadiums fill to the brim and the roar of support and heart is ear splitting as thousands of people unite in their passion for music, sport or live theatre.

The power of connection unites us all - Jo Harris Play Specialist

It seems we all want to belong somewhere or to someone whether it is driven by sport or not. It’s what makes us human and without it we would not survive. The draw card for the moment at the gallery is an exhibition by American artist KAWS, (Cause) aka Brian Donelly who uses art combined with pop culture icons to reflect the perils of modern living and the associated disconnection in an age of 24/7 modern living.

Incredibly it was reported that the gift shop merchandise assigned to the Exhibition was selling out faster than it was being stocked onto the shelves to keep up with the demand for it. I believe this encapsulates my belief that being part of an ideal, an artist’s dream, a player’s talent, a musician’s message moves us all to want to share it together to feel a sense of unity.




What is the difference between children’s friendships and adults?

A few weeks ago I was asked a genuine question by one of my very enthusiastic and vocal 4 year old students.  She had been closely observing my interactions with a co-worker and asked ” Are you two best friends?” You would not think that such a simple question would generate so much overthinking before replying…

Given that we are colleagues we have become good friends due to the very nature of the work we do, but I wanted to reply with an honest answer that did not take away anything from either of the two parties involved.

It got me thinking how children imagine and perceive the interactions of those people around them, and how important it is to be genuine and authentic with the queries children have.

The only way to have a friend is to be one - Ralph Waldo Emerson.jpg

However, it also got me thinking about the differences between children’s and adults friendships in general. Yes there are some obvious differences, but apart from that why should they be considered this way?

I suppose there is a level of formality that may exist in professional work relationships to those of many years and by deliberate choice that is opposite to the freedom children seem to have when learning who they have a connection with.

But isn’t the same true for children whose teachers may expect them to be friends with everyone? I absolutely see the sense in this way of thinking but with caution as it is a bit of an unfair standard to set that we all get along famously. Perhaps it is more realistic to consider granting a healthy level of respect for others knowing that not every one will last outside the year or group level.

It is okay to be able to draw a line to know that there are people who we have instant  connections with and then there are those who we don’t and may never have.

Instead of having expectations that might be too hard to achieve and apply undue pressure onto others, we can encourage children to be friends with themselves first.

This can have tremendous emotional benefits to all parties involved. Much of the conflict that is generated by children getting to know each other is to due in part to knowing who they are as a player so that they can teach others how they ‘work’.

With this is mind then children can have a greater sense of freedom to enjoy interacting with a range of people who they choose to spend time with and decide whats sort of friendship they want to have.

I feel this is similar to how adults can also get most enjoyment and quality out of who they choose to spend their time with – helping them become much better grounded individuals who have a diverse range of friends from all parts of our lives.

I am glad I was prompted with this question to which I responded to with an easy smile and sense of warmth: “Yes we are friends who like to make each other smile and laugh!”

We can be  quick to forget the pain and tears that we may have endured through our own childhood navigating the social highways. What a special gift to help children empower themselves to make their own choices and to be fortunate to have their world filled with other people who make the world go around!

My hope is that the children in my care feel free to know that there are lots of friendships possible with the many people they will encounter along the way. Some may be life long friends, others passing, but all important in one way or another to help solidify that friendship is really no different whatever your age and stage of life.



















Helping Children Solve Problems Through Play



Some time ago at a networking event we were encouraged to describe our businesses in just a few key words. After I came up with


“I help children solve problems through play'”


I began to notice that I wasn’t losing peoples’ attention and that the conversation naturally continued. I used to give much longer explanations that often left people confused – I think that can be the trouble when you are so used to something you forget that not everyone thinks like you!

Helping children solve problems through play is pretty much what it says it is.

However, the notion of ‘problem’ may just differ a little between adults and children… they could be

  • social – such as when inviting others or being invited to join others in their play
  • physical – managing to open, close, fit, arrange things to fit
  • emotional – recognising different feelings and regulating personal needs
  • cognitive – learning skills including counting, reading, posing questions about the world around us

or even,  fit into neither or these categories, or into all of them at the same time.

What inspires me is the memories of being very young and just being in a hurry to grow up….often feeling

doubtful, insecure, shy, embarrassed or misunderstood 

by my attempts that may have fallen just a little short off the mark…

It is only

Time – Experience – Repetition – Encouragement – Persistence 

That helps children learn to believe that they are

Certain – Secure – Confident – Recognised 

as people in their own right with their own unique sense of who they are….




If you want to know yourself, spend some time with a child..

Play can become quite a serious and sometimes hotly contested topic. Until you know the exquisite pleasure of getting out of the way and really letting children play it can be a little difficult to decipher. Even as a teacher of preschool aged children I have to stop myself from doing two things


  1. ‘Over thinking’ the danger that might potentially cause accidents or injuries
  2. Getting too excited and adding my two cents worth before a child has the chance to share their understanding with me or other adults 


Speaking with a very experienced colleague we were sharing some of our observations made when giving children genuine opportunity to discover and explore open ended materials in the outdoor setting,


we both took a moment to really enjoy discussing the totally unique ways children differ in their ideas and problem solving  based on their experiences, preferences and creativity…



"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation" - Plato


That is why I love and value play as so highly in a world we are discovering that our own sense of self is constantly waiting to be discovered and shared in our every day lives.

Spending time engrossed in play with children and adults reminds me that life is meant to be enjoyed and is a beautiful and natural way to help us connect and express what makes us who we are from the inside out.

Learning the ‘rules of play’

Do you hold a particular view of play?

I have been creating visual posts to share some of my favourite quotes of play and this one is very telling. I found it to be a fun way of inviting conversation about play and attitudes towards play as it is such a vital part of my work with children and adults.

It has prompted some interesting and thought provoking questions which I intend to answer in this, and future posts.


What does it say if you don’t like games?

Can you play a game and not have winners and losers?


Attitudes and about winning and losing are certainly formed during play in young children.

Play helps develop positive attitudes and supports learning of strategy and problem solving through practice and repetition.

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation" - Plato

It is possible that what we don’t like about play is the raw emotion that can be attached to it.

Not every person is a gracious winner or loser and for some it can lead to avoiding play altogether.  It can be frustrating, scary, sad or simply uncomfortable if rules are broken and arguments break out during play.

It is worth mentioning there are aspects of games that also require team work and collaboration, not only competition. Modelling and demonstrating positive attitudes invite joyful exchanges where learning can occur alongside fun and enjoyment for all.

Offering genuine support and encouragement and opportunities to learn and grow are vital for all players through unstructured play; in which skills are transferrable to games with rules. Although this takes time, practice and patience, it is worth the reward!