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!