Monday, August 16, 2010

Real Play: Part One

I so enjoyed watching M play with some children from our church that came over recently. They played almost entirely on their own for an hour and a half, digging in the sand (they filtered it through an old screen to gather a collection of the larger glass pebbles), mixing it with water, baking it in a little "oven" they set in the sun to heat up, taking the little cakes out of the oven with oven mitts made of large leaves, and other such fanciful things.
As I watched them I was struck with the thought that what they were doing seemed like real playing. I have sometimes heard people of an older generation ruminate that "Children today don't know how to really play." I have never heard anyone define exactly what they mean by that, but it is a sentiment that resounds with me in a vague sort of way. I was pleased that on that day, these kids seemed to be enjoying at least glimmers of old fashioned fun, but I wish I had more defined thoughts about what makes for quality play- the kind that kids really relish looking back on when they are adults.
I would like to think and write more about it in the next few weeks- what characterizes it; what parents can do to encourage it; what kinds of things keep it from happening.

It would be really helpful to hear your perspectives on this issue. Do you have stories that help illustrate what real play looks like or thoughts on how to define it? Please feel free to weigh in!

5 comments:

Laura said...

When I first started watching children at my home, I was excited to pull out a large box filled with construction paper, fabric scraps and various art supplies. When I grew up such a sight would have made me giddy. I was shocked when I brought out the box and the kids looked at me like "What do I do with this?" They wanted instructions and models to show them how they were supposed to turn all of this "junk" into something. I tried to explain to the kids that the sky was the limit, they could make anything they wanted.

They didn't believe me, so they tested me by saying, "okay then, make a teddy bear." So we did, fully "stuffed" with wadded paper and "sewn" with staples. They were impressed, but the boys wanted some reassurance that this would be fun too. Pretty soon, the kids were shocked to see an entire suit of armor, complete with all of the elements from Ephesians 6: Helmet, sword, breast plate, shoes, belt, and shield.

After this experience the kids got a little more excited about my big box of craft supplies. I think they learned what real play, and using their endless imaginations is all about.

N. said...

I think "real play" involves imagination and what is on hand. No batteries, no screen, and self directed. Our son has a set of play tools that he will use along side of dad. Then later we will see him out "fixing" things in the yard and "building" randome items with rocks and such...real play!

Melia said...

My husband was so excited about 4 years ago when he called to tell me that he was bringing home a dumptruck load of dirt from work so that the kids would have it to play in! We still have it and while it is less of a pile, and more of a crater, my kids still play in it every chance they get! It has been all kinds of things! Even my almost 14 yr old still gets involved in playing out there!

N. said...

I think "real play" involves imagination and what is on hand. No batteries, no screen, and self directed. Our son has a set of play tools that he will use along side of dad. Then later we will see him out "fixing" things in the yard and "building" randome items with rocks and such...real play!

Laura said...

When I first started watching children at my home, I was excited to pull out a large box filled with construction paper, fabric scraps and various art supplies. When I grew up such a sight would have made me giddy. I was shocked when I brought out the box and the kids looked at me like "What do I do with this?" They wanted instructions and models to show them how they were supposed to turn all of this "junk" into something. I tried to explain to the kids that the sky was the limit, they could make anything they wanted.

They didn't believe me, so they tested me by saying, "okay then, make a teddy bear." So we did, fully "stuffed" with wadded paper and "sewn" with staples. They were impressed, but the boys wanted some reassurance that this would be fun too. Pretty soon, the kids were shocked to see an entire suit of armor, complete with all of the elements from Ephesians 6: Helmet, sword, breast plate, shoes, belt, and shield.

After this experience the kids got a little more excited about my big box of craft supplies. I think they learned what real play, and using their endless imaginations is all about.