Every child has the right to play and develop a sense of belonging – that is the foundation that TEDx speaker, innovator, outdoor educator, and host of the ‘Play if Forward’ play-based educational podcast, Lukas Ritson, has built his business on.
Wearthy creates bespoke play environments that ignite creativity and curiosity in children. With AILA awardwinning designs by Landscape Architect Dan Rimes (2021 People’s Choice and 2022 Play Space Design Award), Wearthy inspires generational change by empowering our future leaders with compassion, resilience, and respect for the planet through play.
Play is central to how children learn to process our world. At Wearthy, the philosophy is: if the outcome is more important than the process, then it cannot be defined as play.
Ecology and the pedagogy of play is central to Wearthy’s strategic approach when collaborating with clients. As founder of the National Institute for Play, Dr. Stuart Brown states, a lack of play should be treated like malnutrition – it’s a health risk to your body and mind. This concept is at the heart of Wearthy’s vision.
Humans gain an understanding of the world by exploring, touching, feeling, tasting, and smelling. Fostering play within environments that mirror the natural world provides a foundation for children to feel like part of the world around them. For example, by allowing children to experience the life cycle of a native plant – growing, consuming, providing, and decaying – they are given the ultimate lesson of life across both our ecosystems and our human existence.
The same works introspectively
When a child feels empowered to climb a tree for the first time, without the skills to succeed, they might fall. While this could result in injury or embarrassment in the short term, the long-term benefits far outweigh the initial hardship; they learn a valuable lesson in risk assessment, exploration, and resilience. Just as you can’t learn to drive a car without getting behind the wheel, you cannot learn resilience without first knowing failure is inevitable.
A child’s intrinsic motivation is to play, explore, experience, and experiment. When doing this, they learn about the world around them, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. It’s within this learning where they become a happy, healthy, and resilient adult of tomorrow.
When Lukas Ritson gave his TEDx talk at the University of Queensland in 2021, he explored the three components that are integral to creating environments for children to thrive: time, freedom and possibilities.
Research in 2015 found that children younger than 10 are spending an average of 4.5 hours a day engaged in recreational screen time. As they move into the teen years, it increases to 7+ hours. Imagine the impact on the childhood experience if children spent just half of that time engaged in outdoor play.
Freedom refers to allowing children the space to choose how they want to play, and the independence that comes along with that. Afterall, independent children make for independent adults.
Finally, children can explore new possibilities when engaging with items in their environment in different ways, not just how they were intended. For example, when a child is more interested in the box a gift came in than the gift itself, it is because that box offers endless possibilities of creation – the box can get the child moving physically, socially, and emotionally.
Wearthy not only delivers on the needs of its clients but also the environment in which they are creating. For Lukas and his team, it’s important to establish a sustainable space that supports the continued growth of its surrounding environment where the child can form a relationship with nature and optimally identify as environment. They believe a marker of a successful play environment is one where children can make their imprint in the world around them.
It’s not just an environment built sustainably, Wearthy also builds partnerships that last. They empower their clients to maximise the space through ongoing training and maintenance.
When working with Amaze Education in Beaudesert (Queensland), Wearthy considered the evolution of the surrounding environment to create a space that pays homage to the region’s origins and features native plants and materials to invite regeneration. Following the installation, they also offered an after-care program which included training staff and information sessions for the parents.
While creating the AILA award-winning Pod Early School in Newmarket (Queensland), Wearthy’s strategic and intentional design resulted in a playground that children can immerse themselves in and one that Educators can find inspiration in. Simply put: the playground is a natural environment where children can celebrate the joys of childhood.
Within one generation, one kilometre of play has shrunk down to sight only, contributing to what Richard Louv has coined a ‘nature-deficit’ among children. If a child doesn’t play, they will lack joy and creativity; but, ironically, as our world becomes increasingly automated, the highest value task is creativity. When play is encouraged from a young age, children build the basis for this thinking to flourish as they grow.
By creating spaces that encourage diversity and authentic experiences, Wearthy is building environments that foster play, growth, and resilience. Ultimately, Wearthy creates unique experiences to act as a foundation for our children’s future.