I saw this the other day and loved it because it is so true.
My favorite times watching my children play are totally organic. Not lead by me. Not in a group classroom. Not during an activity I’ve signed them up for. Not while doing anything I’ve paid for. Not when they know I have a camera hiding around the corner, hoping they won’t really notice enough to stop their magic.
Why? Because that sort of play is the best brain building kind! It’s the kind that is naturally multisensory, usually socially engaging. and belly laughing, child shrieking fun. It is THE BEST way to really KNOW my children, because they are worried that an adult watching has expectations. They are free to express themselves at the developmental stage where they are and get all those feelings out, let all those creative ideas flow, and pretend they are whoever they wish to be. Yep, magic.
My favorite thing about social media is seeing the children of my friends and family. I’ll publicly admit that while my parent friends are fuming and post photos of some huge mess, my mind thinks in the way of the child that made the mess. Maybe this is against the parent pact? Like this doozie from my dear friend Jen (Warrior Mom of 4), who shared this of her child’s “artwork” a few months ago.
Jen had just cleaned the couch. She was likely thinking, “Someone is gonna die.” I thought as her son and in my mind said, “I’m learning that this cool address stamper works on things besides paper. And it leaves a mark wherever my hand goes. And that doing this really had my mom engage with me.” Of course my mind also thought “Poor Jen,” and “Been there sister,” and “Rubbing alcohol takes ink out of fabric and toothpaste takes it off tables.” (Parent pack renewed).
As parents, we hear these messages.
“Sign them up, and they’ll learn.”
“Take the class, and they’ll learn.”
“Do the worksheet, and they’ll learn.”
Those messages are so loud at times that the message our gut tells us (that “PLAY BUILDS BRAINS! AND PLAY IS THE BEST TEACHER OF YOUNG KIDS”) is often brought to a whisper. Suddenly, it JUST seems like play instead of the many learning opportunities that go on during play. Instead of the magic.
I believe that if WE as parents, teachers, therapists, child care providers, family members want to turn the tide on the message sent to young children and those that love and care for them regarding play, then we need to start SEEING PLAY THROUGH THEIR EYES. Doing so, will not only make us better at our work, but will change the conversation. It s our job to defend play as a right of children.
I’m not suggesting you let your children color all your walls and furniture. I am suggesting, we consciously set the scene, make supplies available, create safe environments that support creative expression and concrete learning, and then we BUTT OUT (sometimes). More on why – HERE.
Yes, a child needs adults to love to them, read to them, nurture them, comfort them, and play with them. They also need time to play alone and with their peers. I’m also suggesting that when we get the gift of being able to peek in on the magic, we remind ourselves to take a deep breath, look past the mess (briefly), and think, “what is he/she learning?” Yes worksheets or classes led by another adult that we sign up for or pay for are cleaner, safer, and easier (and there are benefits to them as well), but child led, child driven play is the BEST way a young child learns.
As an exercise in this, I started searching for some of my favorite pictures of this sort of magical play and decided to caption them accordingly as a self exercise. Here they are…
Will you help us change the conversation for kids?
For more on why we believe in play and ways to encourage early learning through play using 1-2-3 Just Play With Me take a look around this website!