children and play

Star Wars Play: Self-Directed Play

The star of all play ideas is self-directed play, and kids themselves will remind us if we forget. As adults, it’s so easy to get caught up in planning and orchestrating children’s play, instead of allowing them to direct it themselves.

self-directed playToday, I was trying to think of another Star Wars play activity for today but the kids beat me to it. Little Sister rounded up all the shapes from a toy she hadn’t played with in a long while. Each shape has a small hole in the middle so it will sit on a peg board. She didn’t stop until she had a shape on every peg so the board had no empty spaces.

I thought I was suitably enthusiastic when I said, “Wow, look at all those shapes. You worked to fill up the whole thing,” but I guess not. Little Sister had to point it out. “See, the shapes are in lines.” My second wow was much better. I hadn’t even noticed, but sure enough, the shapes were separated so all of the circles, triangles, stars, etc were in their own lines. There was no need for me to get bent-out-of-shape thinking of something to do. The stars had already aligned.

It’s so important for us to let kids be the stars in their own play. We can support their play by being there for them to ‘show and tell’. Many times kids will invite us to come and see. Even though they are playing, this is their work. They are proud of their own efforts and want us to be too.

We can also support children’s play by giving them a space where they are free—with a few guidelines, of course—to choose how they will play. They may want to spread out a puzzle, build high and wide with blocks, or zoom cars in a big, empty space.

As kids play, we can notice what they are doing and occasionally ask questions or make comments. For instance, if Little Sister hadn’t placed the shapes in their own line, I may have noticed where there were a couple of the same shape already and asked if more of that shape could go in the same line too. There are often ways to extend play, once we take the time to really look.

This Star Wars play-of-the-day was very different from my perspective. Today, self-directed play gets the star.

What To Do the Day After Christmas?

What’s on your agenda for the day after Christmas? Anyone else think Boxing Day should be renamed Nap Day?

reading books and storiesKids and adults could both use some time today to take things a little easier. It might mean a nap snuggled under a warm blanket. It could be a few books and stories with some popcorn and hot chocolate. Or maybe trying out new paints, colors, or other art materials.

holiday fun in the snowIn some areas, the weather may be calling families outdoors. There have been photos of sand “snowmen” at warm beach areas and swimming in warmer waters for families taking a winter vacation. Some other families were trying out new ski and snow equipment that had been under the tree as they headed off for a winter adventure. Swimming or sledding might be happening for families staying close to home too. Time in nature is often a great way to de-stress. A walk around the neighborhood or hike in a nearby park can give both kids and adults a way to release worries and tension. No matter the weather, when dressed for the temperature, time outside can both revive and relax.

jador-train1Back inside, we could all use some time to PLAY. Kids often have some new toys and games. One of the highlights of the holidays is having more time together. Is there a puzzle you could do with your child? Maybe there’s a board game that families can play or a craft activity. A new train can go round and round for hours.

work can be child's playTo a child, work can seem like play. There might be decorations to take down or dishes to put away. In the kitchen, it can be fun to cut up some vegetables for making soup with leftovers. Laundry never seems to take a holiday and kids can help. You or your child can pretend to be laundry monsters that look around for items that need washing. Gleefully feed anything dirty to the washing machine to get gobbled up. The dryer spits them out ready to be folded and put away into the drawer monster.

For more than a few, the day after Christmas can be for traveling. Being in a car or plane with kids can be anything but a present, but the memories, bonds, and holiday time together will last a lifetime. Happy ‘rest of the’ holidays!

Parents Are Children’s First Teachers and Playdates

Parents Children’s First Teachers, Home First School and Playground

Have you heard the saying that parents are children’s first teachers and do you have worries, concerns, and a long list of questions about what to do? Often, parents and caregivers are reluctant to try some activities because they worry if they are good enough, think that don’t know as much as needed, wonder if they will teach something the wrong way, or they are afraid of being silly and foolish.

parents are children's first teachersThese are valid issues, and especially so because parents get the first turn when it comes to educating kids. Besides all these concerns, parents are busier than ever with countless demands on their time and energy. Somehow, Mother Nature must have understood and come up with a plan. The best way to teach kids and the optimum way for them to learn is through PLAY. Just in case that isn’t enough, being silly and goofy is part of the deal. After all, it’s PLAY.

Play is all about exploring to find answers and include science, art, math, communication and social activities. Play can happen in the kitchen, the laundry room, the hallway, and everywhere in the house. Outside, the playground, park, and neighborhood add more spaces to play. Parents are children’s first teachers and they are also the first playdates. (Check out 3 daughters dressing up daddy video!)

For the next several posts, I’ll be blogging about simple, fun ways to do all sorts of activities with kids, an entire series of “Yes, you can!” ideas that will fit in with busy schedules and parent concerns. Each time you are tempted with the words, “But I can’t do that because …” remember the spirit and intention of play. Play is permission to discover and have fun, to enjoy the process without worrying about the product, for creating questions rather than having answers. Play is the freedom to make mistakes, to try again and do over. Can you come out to play?