Play is fundamental to Children’s Wellbeing. We believe in the importance of play, fun, and enjoyment throughout a child’s experience of education and life. Every child should have the opportunity, space, and time to develop healthy relationships with their families, communities, and the natural world. Play gives children the chance to grow and explore the world on their own terms, and create significant forms of understanding and respect towards nature.
Research shows that play is a critical component of children’s development. It contributes to their cognitive, physical, social and emotional wellbeing. Childhood play is essential for its emotional, behavioural, social and physical benefits, whilst being a Human Right under Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
Opportunities for play continue to diminish as children’s free time is limited because of fewer common play spaces in the community, shifts in lifestyle, and less freedom to play outdoors.
In May 2014, Her Excellency the President of Malta expressed her wish to have an interactive and creative place at San Anton Gardens that will give children in the Maltese Islands “the space to express their personality, express their opinions and become more conversant in life skills”.
The President’s Secret Garden opened its doors for the very first time on Saturday 18th April 2015. Children, accompanied by their parents or other adults, flocked to the President’s private garden at San Anton Palace.
Participants admired the beauty of the garden, which had been kept private for so many years. They delighted in the lush lawns, the mature trees, birds, and varied flower beds. The opening ceremony formed part of a larger activity to celebrate World Book Day. The attendance was encouraging, and the Foundation Team was further motivated by the feedback it received from hundreds of children and adults.
The methodology proposed by the team focused on utilising a relatively small space while giving children the freedom to play and exercise their imagination. Children were encouraged to develop a sense of peace and security; an opportunity for self-reflection and creative thought; a spiritual and cultural engagement with their own narratives of wellbeing, away from the restrictions of space and time that otherwise inhibit the child’s access to free play.
These activities strived to present children with opportunities to explore, discover, and value their relationships among themselves, with their families, their communities, and the natural world.
The activities were aimed to give children the opportunity to:
1. Integrate, promote, nurture, increase and improve their wellbeing
2. Explore and discover the garden as a space for creative thought
3. Discover the “Little Artist” inside
4. Experience participation and develop self-reflective practices
5. Boost self-confidence and self-expression
6. Make new friends from diverse communities
7. Engage with the arts and strategies for an arts-based education
8. Experience physical activities and activities oriented towards the promotion of healthy lifestyles