If you've been reading my blog for a while you know that I have a passion for a return to "real play"-- the kind children enjoyed 100 years ago-- the kind that adults remember with fondness-- and that is more and more rare these days. I tried to pin down some of its defining characteristics in my post here.
Since that time I've been tossing around in my head thoughts from experience and observation concerning things that parents sometimes do to unintentionally inhibit real play.
This is what I have so far:
1. Try to keep children from ever getting dirty.
2. Go along with our culture's message to little kids that they should try to be "cool" instead of feeling free to enjoy childish play (skate boards and sunglasses, makeup and dating vs baby dolls and toy dump trucks)
3. Fill their day with too many planned activities.
4. Provide no boundaries. Children feel safer exploring and playing freely when they feel there are limits.
5. Allow too much tv time or video game time. Personally, I tend to feel that for young children if media time occurs every day (even in small amounts) it is detrimental.
6. Hover or praise too much. (creates self-conscious, parent-driven play)
7. Laugh at their imagination without gentleness.
8. Give them toys that provide too much entertainment for too little work. At the push of a single button so many baby toys go absolutely crazy with flashing lights, music, voices. A child should have to work at the reward a little bit.
9. Worry too much about injury. My mother always treated risks of permanent injuries very seriously (brain damage, paralysis, etc) but if the only real danger was breaking an arm or scraping a leg then we were free to be adventurous and learn from our own mistakes.
10. Insist that furniture and toys be confined to their original uses.
11. Grant a wish for toys as soon as the child expresses an interest. A big spark for creativity for us as children growing up was the fact that we didn't have a swimming pool and we REALLY wanted one. We created so many make-shift pools on our own (pickup truck bed, ditch in our yard, etc) and really enjoyed doing it!
12. Treat the eradication of their boredom as the parents' responsibility. In our family, going back several generations now, a child's "I'm bored" would elicit a stern, "Well, then I'll FIND you something to do!" and the result would be hard work! We quickly learned to keep any boredom to ourselves :-) As an adult I am almost never bored because I learned as a child how to occupy and entertain myself.
13. Don't expect any chores out of them. When children have to work part of the day it makes them treasure their free time more. Also work stimulates children mentally and physically.
I'd love to hear your perspective on the kinds of things that inhibit real play. Also, in the future I would like to write a post talking about the positive things a parent can do to encourage real play. Your thoughts on that topic would also be very helpful to me!