“Letting our children play” sounds easy and so obvious, doesn’t it?
We all know play should be encouraged, because it’s essential for healthy development: physical, cognitive, psychological and, most imperatively, the development of extended potty breaks for parents. Yet many of us find it surprisingly difficult to refrain from interrupting or interfering when our children play. This might be because:
We don’t always recognize play when it happens. Friend and fellow blogger Laura Grace Weldon related this anecdote:
A friend with two kids under three read one of your play posts today and remarked that she’d been harassing her kids to finish breakfast while they’d been making their spoons talk to each other. Inspired by what you wrote, she stopped bothering them. They played in their seats for a full half hour in quiet delight. She says it’s changed her outlook entirely.
We are excited to show children how it’s done or share our ideas with them. Nadia Bata from Amman, Jordan, shared a moment of clarity:
There was a small thing today that made it all very clear. My son has a Duplo set, and it has a fence made up of four parts, all the same. They hinge together to create a long piece. I have always been showing him how to use it as a fence, and I even went as far as putting his animals in there and feeding them. He was never really interested for long.
Today I just watched, and commented, and expressed joy… he turned the “fence” into a worm (he got it to move like a worm would), and he then turned it into a slide for the sheep….afterwards he made it into a triangle shape, placed his sheep inside and told me that his sheep had a car!!! How amazed was I? The best part about it all is that he is much happier playing this way, I can see a big difference, and he can tell that I appreciate him as he is, doing what he can and wants to do.
Where children perceive an engaging process or experience, we see a “problem” that needs resolution. Teacher Victoria Byres shared a video and note about her son. Child-led play geek that I’ve become, I could watch this all… day… long. I got goosebumps and kept thinking surgeon.
(I found the toy Victoria’s son is using HERE)
I’m a teacher. I found you originally through Teacher Tom and have been following your blog for years. I love all aspects of your approach in theory, but I still struggle with some in practice. As I watched my son play with his stacking set today I was itching to jump in and show him how to do it, but because of your writing I managed to keep myself from ‘helping’ and am so glad that I did. It was such a joy to watch the intense concentration as my son worked through the problem, experimenting, working methodically and showing great persistence. I love that when he’s finished there is no great fanfare — it’s just onto the next task. Job done!
Thank you so much Janet for this experience! Your blog is changing children’s childhoods for the better!
How do we control our impulse to get in the way with play? Child specialist Magda Gerber encouraged parents to place our distractions, concerns and agendas in an imaginary basket. Letting go, relaxing, observing sensitively with an open mind allows us to see our child more clearly, perhaps even get a glimpse or two through his or her eyes. This is a challenge with many delightful pay-offs.
Now that I have been reading and following your blog for a couple of weeks I am starting to understand everything and am in the process of implementing…I know you must get this a lot, but it has changed my life!!! I am so much more relaxed now and enjoying my boys just as they are, no pressure…..I almost never yell, have no problem living without the TV, and I don’t feel the need to put on a circus show to keep my son happy.
You’ll find much more about this approach to parenting and play in my book:
(Photo by Ding Yuin Shan on Flickr)