Helena plays bases, and this is one of the common games I see kids play. Bases appear at the holiday programme every session, when we go to our homeschool group, when we relieve at forest school, campground hosting… whenever there other children and even when she’s alone. They often have a place to sleep, a place to eat…

This one has storage…

Usually they are outside, inside they seem to be called a fort and are more for being hidden away. Sometimes Helena and her neighbor, who is 5, do ‘setups’ which are a similar thing but with baby beds… then the game is obviously a playing babies/mum game, living what they see, sharing their knowledge. Outside it’s less clear, they vary as somewhere to run to, to plot from, but still places to eat, for real and for pretend, and to sleep – always pretend. They appear to be house like to me. Often they are supplementary to playing a game where the kids are children alone, with parents who abandoned them, parents who died, parents who are so awful they ran away, so that they are children alone in the world. I don’t think they are living their fears (even though they deeply know we will die) or working out what to do if something that scary happened, but more that they are working on independence… developing solidarity with each other not the adults. Often they are using the ideas and the trappings they see at home, making beds, making sure everyone has a spot, a form of playing house but big kid style, like they will do when they go flatting. Making a safe spot to explore from, a home. Sometimes I think bases are designed to incite conflict and hence extend their knowledge of human relationships and conflict resolution, the zone of proximal development and all that and designed to solidify their groupness. At the holiday programme there are popular places to have your bases and then people divide into various base based goups and often play a game of raiding each other’s bases, they don’t often take stuff it’s more like being territorial, making their spot theirs, our group, vs. your group. The bases make the kids into a united group, be they the Kawakawa tribe, or a group of spies, sometimes they even go as far as charcoaling their faces to mark their groupness. Even as adults we like to nest, we want to have a safe place, a home that helps make us a family, so maybe that’s what the kids are doing. We like to know who we can trust, that we are a unit, and also what happens when there is conflict over important things like loading the dishwasher. Though the kids groups always contain a degree of ability to change, for those who want to leave can leave, or to include new people including other whole groups.

Interestingly in the base game they don’t do laundry… so not really like playing house!

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