While the constantly changing world of technology continues to affect kids’ interests, The Flying Seagull Project founder Ash Perrin is determined to make old-fashioned play a priority.
Founded in 2007, Perrin’s Flying Seagull Project is a nonprofit charity group comprised of clowns, magicians, circus performers and musicians who travel around the world visiting children in hospitals, orphanages, marginalized communities and refugee camps. “We call ourselves childhood conservationists…We really feel that there’s a wholesomeness and a simplicity to physical play that must be preserved in order for children to develop and use technology in a responsible way,” Perrin says of the London-based group’s mandate. “Without play, we’re just missing out on magic.”
Perrin will be bringing that message to next month’s Children’s Global Media Summit, taking place from December 5 to 7 at the Manchester Central Convention Complex in Manchester, England. He will participate in the session “The Future of Play,” discussing the importance of simple, physical play and the creativity that powers it.
According to Perrin, missing out on the childhood developmental benefits of play affects a person well into adulthood. And he knows this first-hand. Born deaf, Perrin regained his hearing after an operation as a toddler. In order to help him catch up to his peers, he was deeply immersed in music and was encouraged to enjoy learning, approaching it like a game. “I caught up as a child who, at age three, couldn’t speak a word or even echo a sound. Now, I make my job as an orator, performer and communicator,” Perrin says.
The Flying Seagull Project posits that creativity is the foundation of play and encourages children to go screen-free in order to develop their imaginations and experience the same old-fashioned, physical play that helped Perrin. “We call it the ‘Look Down Philosophy,’” Perrin says. “My niece has a tablet, and she takes it in the back of the car and just looks down at it, she doesn’t look out the window. I used to look out the window and imagine acrobats swinging on the lamp posts, and now I run a circus. Every little element of our daily lives growing up has an impact on defining who we become as adults.”
The Flying Seagull Project contends Look Down Philosophy can be eliminated by engaging children in games, organized play and live performances (featuring everything from music to magic tricks). The organization also provides training, tips and circus equipment to the staff employed at the locations at which they’re visiting. For Perrin, participating in the Children’s Global Media Summit is an opportunity to speak with content creators, platform providers and policy makers to discuss their role in guiding children’s experience with technology and encouraging creative play, and he hopes to inspire others to approach childhood and play from the Flying Seagull point of view.
“I’m not against technology at all,” he admits. “We all feel the same things, though we may express things differently. So I actually think that media and technology and these platforms can be incredible communication tools and boundary breakers. I also believe very strongly that the elements and the essence of childhood need to be considered in the development of these platforms. It can’t just be about the number of units sold.”