In Play Part 1, we lamented that true play is disappearing from childhood. We looked at why we firmly need to retain play in our homes. Play is the foundation for the unique individual.
Play is the foundation for the purposeful work we all dream of doing.
When children are able to play freely, this is the playground for talents and passions to blossom. Later these talents and passions become the backbone for work aligned to the very essence of the individual.
The go off and play nudge can be greeted with resistance. Yet free play in many children comes about easily given the right prompts and space, which I will later outline.
True and free play is for children what being in flow or in the zone is for us adults. Time and space disappear. Creativity, imagination, possibility, conversation converge. This kind of play, as an active form of rest, is an essential way of being for the body.
We must provide and allow for this kind of true play, without getting in the way.
Often there are a whole host of our feelings underneath play which do get in the way.
We feel guilt for not playing with our children, boredom when we do play with them. Frustration by the trade off playing with them has over the endless list of things that need doing, and irritation by them having too much noisy fun.
And for babies, either we can’t let go of our babies to play alone, or we don’t want them close for fear of spoiling them.
Often we interrupt our children’s true play with comments and questions and learning opportunities, and thereby turn their own play into a morph of play on our terms.
Each time their play is hijacked by our agenda, we diminish the possibility for true play and also for growth.
When your child is in true play, he doesn't need us to facilitate or remark. He only needs to know that you are close by.
He will be building, acting, talking, creating, working things out, conversing, pretending, expressing himself, feeling the sadness of separating from you at school or sleep time, or imagining enjoying the forbidden treats.
She will be making mistakes, finding solutions and problem solving all of her own accord.
True play is a child’s training ground for cultivating kindness and care. Roles are adorned of mummy, daddy, doctor, nurse, teacher and more. Empathy, compassion and care are well rehearsed across all these caregiving platforms.
In short, true play for children is pivotal for growing up mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Here are the three P’s to foster true play.
Often young children simply need to know you are close by. They may look over towards you from time to time, and then continue with their play.
When downtime is slim and overtaken by screens, invitations for true play nowadays require some foresight and preparation. We may need to put limits on screen time or we may even need to deschedule to make space for free play.
3. Play Prompts
Arrange and organize the space to invite play. So if your child likes drawing or painting, set the materials and paper out. If he likes craft, do the same. Or lego, building, construction, or music, or writing, or poetry. For a preschooler, anything sensory is a hit.
Make a station to initiate play. Entice with fresh or forgotten materials and let your child be free. Change the set up regularly to excite your child.
Since our children emulate whatever it is we do and say, let’s strive to provide good fuel for our children’s play.
When we model kindness and justice, compassion and mistakes, peaceful problem solving and forgiveness, self-love and self-worth, then we are developing both ourselves and our next generation.
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