Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Lost Art of Free Play- Part Two

If you missed Part One, click here!
In Part One, I emphasized the importance of play and shared a little research from Awakening Your Child's Natural Genius by Thomas Armstrong and Raising Curious Kids by Nancy Sokol Green.

So, we are aware of the important of play, but what do we do now to encourage this type of play?

First and foremost, we need to be playful ourselves and model our own imaginative thinking. We need to get on the floor with our children and create, build, and sculpt. Besides playing with our children, we need to observe them. Often, when I take a moment to actually stop running, I enjoy listening to my girls and hearing their imaginative play. It helps me to get to know them better and to connect with them. Armstrong states, "Unless you understand children's working vocabulary for play, you may be unable to establish a meaningful connection with them at these times."

Armstrong also suggests starting points to encourage play. A few that I would like to try are space shifting, creative dress-up, and adventure playground.

space-shifting- use string or masking tape to mark off a circular area. (10-15 ft. in diam.). Let this space become a new destination for their imaginations!
(and it only costs a few cents!)

- Of course, we are not in need of anymore Princess dresses, but I'd like to add a little bit more variety to my daughters dress-up to encourage different types of creative play.

adventure playground
- (for older children 10 and up) This is an idea I'd like to keep in mind when my children are older,but a great suggestion for those who have older children. Provide an area for building creative structures that includes pieces of wood, nails, and other carpentry tools.

Steven Auerbach, author of Toy Chest: A Sourcebook of Toys for Children, suggests three different types of toys that children should be exposed to for play- active, creative, and educational.
active- jump ropes, skates, etc.
creative- modeling clay, instruments, puppets
educational- boardgames, puzzles, globes, magnets

Open-ended toys in my opinion are the best toys for children, because they encourages them to use their own brains to create new ideas. How many times as parents have we commented, "Why am I buying all of these toys, when all they want to play with is the box, or the packing peanuts, or the pots and pans in my kitchen?" Our kids show us what they truly need through their own exploration.

On today's store shelves, there are so many toys that do everything for the child, that they don't even have to think for themselves anymore. Am I saying that our kids shouldn't have any electronic toys? Of course not; I do see the value in exposing children to a variety of play things, especially different forms of technology. My goal is to expose them with limits and try to get back to the basics of play- back to simplicity.

Let me know what you think and what you do to encourage play in your homes?

Have a great Sunday!



BookChook said...

I love your thoughts here and do agree with the importance of creative play. I think the value of a cardboard box lies in the fact it can "be" anything, whereas many toys are limited in their potential.

Jen said...

Book Chook- Great comments! Thanks for the feedback and visiting Creative and Curious Kids!!

Michele Latham said...

I love your post! Sometimes I feel like there aren't many of us who share this view on free play. Some of the best learning takes place during free time. It does take some planning to provide a safe and creative atmosphere though. Thanks for the ideas!

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