What do you remember playing as a child? Did you spend hours upon hours making, crafting, pretending, singing, dancing, writing and playing at something?
Well infact I don’t remember playing at anything with this level of immersion.
And actually this feels like a missing out. A missing out on a vital part of childhood and the vital aspect of development.
Since play is the silent instrument in growth. Play propogates self expression, individuality, creativity, curiosity, problem solving. This is the stuff you can’t teach. Yet a child captures these qualities through play.
It’s a certain kind of play called true play that matures children. The kind of play they freely enter, at their own will. There is no coercion and no outcomes since all is pretend and not for real. It is here on this stage that children practice and rehearse language, situations, emotions and more.
Babies begin playing with exploration; collecting and sorting items. This playground shapes their sense of belonging and sense of self.
The drive to play comes from deep in the brain, next to the instinct to breath. To play is a primitive instinct and therefore commands the utmost respect in nature.
The natural unfolding for children happens through play. It is for this reason, that in my book Raising Your Family, Raising Humanity: Nine Route Home, Play is one of the routes at Nature’s table.
Yet we live so far from what nature intended. Being banished to our room for being bored is a far gone activity. Now over-scheduling leaves few empty spaces, which are quickly replaced by digital entertainment and screens.
Now work, acheivements, grades, certificates and growing up fast are the currency of childhood. The kind of play I can recall is playing to work rather than true play. Doing something purposeful and constructive like washing tables and mirrors. I’m not sure I would have freely entered into this.
Free play, without our coercion is the forerunner to passions, qualities and expressions of the soul. As parents we naturally want to encourage this.
We see true play at its best where children feel close and connected to their adults; to their teachers and to us. Then children can exhibit this play which is really an active form of rest. They are both safe in the knowing that they are taken care of, and are held in the highest regard, and so can relax into true play.
We have lost twelve hours free time each week (quotes Davild Elkind, author of Miseducation), with play down by a staggering seventy percent in one generation.
This lost activity commands our attention now in order to give our children a childhood as nature intended and a lifetime expressing their fullest potential.
Over this Friday’s Gaia Gang we will explore play further and in my article next week I shall look at ways to make space for play.
In the meantime I would love to hear about the kind of play you remember enjoying.
Share the love for true play, send this article to a friend with young children.