Friday, February 14, 2014

To Play or To Not Play: Spring Week 3

My favorite question this week from classes:

He wants me to play With him…Should I?

This is not an easy question to answer.
 Yes and No.
 I remember when my daughter was about 3 mos. Old…she was quite a fussy one, I was always carrying her around shushing, rocking, singing, reading…whatever I could to get her to stop crying.

On this particular day, NOTHING was working.
 I thought I might lose it so I thought I better give myself a break and I put her in her nice safe crib and walked away.
 OMG…after about 5 minutes of hardcore crying (her as well ;)  she was quiet!
I rushed back to see what the heck was going on?
 She was laying on her back staring at the ceiling and moving her arms and kicking her legs.

She was playing!

A light bulb went off for me that day…
 My list of daily needs for my child expanded by one that day.

Sleep (Check)

Food (Check)

Bodily care (Check)
 And now I understood that this new item on the list was as important as sleep…

As important as food…

And as important as having a clean tushy…
 Play (double check)!!

 And just as she often protested when I changed her diaper, fed her food she might not like, and insisted she nap...
I realized that I might have to insist she play as well.

 Most of us think that play should just happen on it's own.  And often it does.
But there can be some barriers to why this may not be happening.

Yep, you are one of the biggest barriers.

Sorry :(
 Most often, children need privacy to play properly.

When we make their play spaces too public, they become more and more dependent on us.
Especially as they get older and older...they begin to get embarrassed if you're listening in.

 And, when they are playing in the Living Room, family room...and you walk by, most often you are compelled to make some kind of remark.

 It doesn't matter if you're complimenting or complaining...

What you are doing is INTERRUPTING.

 You've heard, "Never wake a sleeping baby."

Remember this:
"Never Interrupt a Playing child."
 My all time favorite play spot??

Their bedroom.

Or any other area that can lead to some privacy.

 Make it as safe as possible and it's really great if you have a way to Secretly do a little peek-a-boo to make sure they are alive and well...but try to not let them see you doing that.
 So, back to playing WITH your child.
Please do it, do it, do it!!
Let them lead...Don't take over and make it about YOU!!
 Copying what they do and maybe adding just a slight "new" thing can give them an idea but not make them reliant on you to continue the play.
 Have appropriate toys that don't require Mom or Dad to keep repairing or "fixing"... If a child cannot use it on his/her own, pack it away for later.

 Don't look at play as "Entertainment"... entertaining your child makes them into a passive recipient instead of an active protaganist.
And don't even get me started on my most hated word: "Edu-tainment" YUCK!!

After playing with your child for a bit...let them know, you have some "Stuff" to do by yourself and it's time for them to play by themselves or with brother or sister.

Then...Leave em be.

Chances are...they will whine and fuss and try and get you to come back.
You may have to insist.
You may have to listen to them cry for you.
This is when I usually grab my book and I sit and read...and I sort of...ignore them.??!!

Usually, after some agonizing, nails on the chalk-board minutes later...
They Play!!

In play...a child is free.

In play, the child is able to try on roles they could never normally take on.
Which is why it's critical to their development.

 And for those of you still looking for more...Read on...
There are about 9 roles adults can offer to children to assist in assisting the play process.  I am just going to discuss the first in this particular blog:

In the book, Tools of the Mind, it's laid out almost perfectly... I'll try not to copy verbatim but do keep in mind this is coming from one of my favorite Vygotskian inspired books.

 1. Make sure children have sufficient time for play.
 Children need at least 40-60 minutes of uninterrupted time each day in order to develop rich and mature play.

We make time for eating, sleeping, bathing, pottying...
MAKE the time for play too!! And, I'm not talking about soccer practice, swimming lessons, gymnastics, etc...
 And...Please DO NOT interrupt the play to "teach" them things!

When you see your child sorting cars or lining them up...and you say, "How many cars do you have, let's count them." or some other teachy nonsense...
You are taking play into your hands and actually turning the play into an adult directed "Lesson".
 Observe when you are able and without interrupting and leave the shape, letters, and color lessons to another time...

 Maybe at clean up... You get the red cars and I'll get the blue cars...