Archive for the ‘play’ Category

“Daydreams are a highly creative form of mental engagement and a necessary way for children–lacking real-world experience–to process complex information and emotions.”

~ “How Daydreaming Helps Children Process Information and Explore Ideas” by Amy Fries on Psychology Today

And more playful food for thought from around the web:

“Responding to Children’s Spontaneous Experimentation” by Christie Burnett on Childhood 101

“Guest Post: FiveFreedoms I Had that My Daughter Won’t” by Kerala Taylor on Free Range Kids

“The Junk Box: A Collection of Odds and Ends for Inspiring Creativity” by Jaimie on Two Chicks and a Hen


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Oh the ways that a 4 year old knows to slow life down. Especially when we’ve got somewhere to go or something to do. I try to build in transition time aplenty but sometimes it isn’t possible to go at LP’s pace for reason’s ranging from external time-pressure to my own need to move it along.

I’ve had ample opportunity to think about the different ways a person can amble away from a goal-directed moment. While the slowing things down behaviors  may look the same, defining the intent or motivation can be helpful in playfully moving things along.

Here are the distinctions I’ve been pondering:

Procrastination comes out of not wanting to do something. The focus of the meandering, distraction or sudden intense focus on something else is all about avoiding what comes next.  One of my playful strategies with procrastination is to dive into melodrama. “Oh no! The room has become filled with bits of paper. Whatever will we do? I can’t even walk through all this paper.  Someone help me! Help me!”  OR “How will we ever get to the bus stop? We’ll never make it!” That works about 20-30%% of the time.  I’m trying to develop other playful strategies because although my directive, stern mama voice is somewhat effective, it is becoming less so from overuse. I think it is worth saving for impact when it counts. (If only it worked on me when I’m procrastinating!)

Lollygagging is a gentle getting lost in the moment even when you know there’s something else to do. As we walk home from our neighbors house, LP’s imagination takes her away on side adventures to look for marmosets in a tree or stop every few feet to let her puppy do its business.  Gentle, playful teasing about the fact that she’s lollygagging tends to work on this one. The fact that it is a fun and funny word to say helps too.

Bridging is from an active desire to keep the current activity going. The term “bridging” comes from improvisation where it is generally seen as a negative thing. If you are doing an improv scene and the moment comes to make something happen (metaphorically step over  a puddle), instead you stall and make a lot of other things have to happen first you are building a bridge over that puddle instead. With children and play, it happens when they know the end is coming (either because you’ve told them or they feel your energy start to drift away) and they work creatively and hard to keep the action going, throwing up obstacle after obstacle.  If it is almost quiet time and I tell LP to bring her model horses to their pasture for their rest, I know there are going to be all kinds of things that happen to keep the horses from getting there.  There’s a hole they can’t get over. And one horse needs a lead rope and no one can find one. I gently encourage her through the obstacles and often end up “helping” the horses (which is not what I would do during regular playtime).

Daydreaming is that lovely state of being lost in one’s thoughts and unaware of any other thing happening. It is beautiful to watch a child in that state…I try to let it go on as long as possible and then gently draw her back into the world while acknowledging the dream place she’s been.

In the month since I started writing this post, LP has developed oh, about 17 other ways to slow things down “But I’m not finished” and being in a state of deep engaged flow and not being able to move because her feet “are stuck” and so on and so on)…but those are for exploring on another day.

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“Attention is the starting place of every intuitive story. In order to make up a story on the spot, we need to start. We need a seed. We need a launching pad. And the world is ready to help you. The world will surround you with seeds and a launching pad and all you have to do is attend. Pay attention. Look around. Listen. Smell the air. Taste your food. Feel your feet in your shoes. Be there. Then the magic happens.”

~ David Sewell McCann in “Attention: The First A of Intuitive Storytelling” on The Wonder of Childhood

(I highly recommend his whole series of posts on intuitive storytelling — wonderful way to think about making up stories!)

And of course there’s always more delicious playful food for thought:

“The Case for Imaginative Play: Emotions and Fears” by Christie Burnett on Childhood101

“A Scavenger Hunt (and make)” by Jean on the Artful Parent

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Earlier this week, LP and I were visiting with our neighbor, M and her dog. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon to sit in her backyard. M and I were enjoying coffee and a chat, her dog was curled up in my lap while LP romped around the yard.  After too few minutes there, LP ran up to us, eyes alight, calling out “let’s do a treasure hunt!”

Such beautiful energy. And I didn’t want to set up a treasure hunt.

Fortunately, M had an inspiration and said, “I have something for you to hunt for.  See if you can find a blue flower that’s in this part of the garden.” She pointed to indicate an area with plants that was close to her and I could see that there was a solo blue flower peeking out from under a large green bushy plant.

LP happily hunted and when she found and picked the flower.  The treasure hunt evolved from there.   M offered her a glass jar to hold the treasures. She dropped the flower in and asked for the next clue and then raced around to find “something under the lemon tree.”  She brought back a lemon and dropped it in and M gave her the next clue to find a flower that grew by the birdhouse.  When she had that, I gave her the next clue of finding a leaf from a plant that she could eat (basil).

LP enjoyed her treasure hunt and we enjoyed watching her AND still got to have our chat. It was pretty easy to spot things around the garden to include in the hunt and the game came to a natural end when she decided to pick lemons instead.

I’m looking forward to trying out our on-the-spot treasure hunt again. Perhaps next time we are in the woods or on a nature walk….although really, we could do it around the house too.

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“As adults we have preferred areas of interest, activities and ways of learning. So it is natural that children do too. But that is not to say that we cannot (or should not) introduce them to other types of activities, to help them discover new potential interests, passions or  ways to play.”

~Christie Burnett in “But my Child Doesn’t Like to Play _____” on Childhood101

And some more playful food for thought:

“Baby-Led Adventures – 5 Reasons Babies Need to Lead” by Janet Lansbury, Elevating Child Care blog

“Worth repeating: The value of creative play and The Case for Make Believe” on Parents for Ethical Marketing

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“People can be creative at anything in life, not just the arts. And thank goodness they are! We need creative people in all areas of life. Creativity is not just about putting paint to paper, it’s about creating something new, novel. It’s about looking at something in a fresh way or coming up with a unique solution to a problem.”

~ Jean Van’t Hul   in the post “On Creativity” on the Artful Parent

Here’s more playful food for thought from around the web:

Share your childhood play memories by participating in The Global Play Memory Project.

“Non-Toxic Homemade Bubbles and 5 More Fun Backyard Activities” by Emily McClements on Simple Organic

“I’m Bored, Mom: Unplugged Play at Home” by Jamie Martin on Simple Homeschool

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Doing art projects out in the world (library, special events, etc) is a challenge for my LP.

She is all about the process and exploration of materials and usually those art experiences are about product. LP wants to feel the paint, glue and glitter on her skin and explore it completely with her hands.  Her art experiences at her wonderful preschool are all about process as our 99% of the ones we do at home (every so often I push for product for a present), so she has many opportunities to go for it on the process front.  When she participates in an art project in public, I want to balance honoring her natural impulse to EXPLORE materials with what is appropriate to the setting.

I believe that it is important for kids to consciously experience adjusting to the rules of a situation AND find their spontaneity within those rules.  It is challenging for a person of any age to find their place in a group and public events are opportunities for our little people to work on those skills.  I want LP to learn to find her own balance of joining in a collective experience while being true to herself.

These public art projects are a great chance for LP to get that experience of creating within more boundaries than usual. Often there is 1) limited time, 2) limited materials and 3) a “sample” that the kids are supposed to emulate. Those are three tough limits for my girl.

While I can’t do anything about 1 & 2, I am always supportive of LP doing the project she wants to do within those constraints.  If she wants to do the sample, that’s fine too but that day has not yet come and for me the point of the project is to have a collective experience, not make a garden collage or challah cover that looks like the sample.

The biggest difficulty is with materials since my tactile girl wants to rub glue all over her arms and spread glitter with her nose and paint all over herself.  The where and when of these events determine the boundaries I set with her. (I watch the art project set up with my questions in mind…Do I have a change of clothes? Is there a sink reasonably close? How soon do we need to catch the bus home? How much of the materials are there? And of course, the occasional parent insecurity about what other people think…)  Within those boundaries, I let her go for it.

But oh the heartbreak of projects with gluesticks.  Her desire is to use her fingers on those gluesticks and dig out all the glue and sculpt with it.  And that is not an option when multiple kids are supposed to be sharing a gluestick.

Like a recent morning at the library.

After storytime, the librarian directed the kids over to two covered tables to make garden collages.  Gluesticks, tissue paper, colored paper, crayons and markers were laid out and the librarian showed “the sample.”  LP wanted to do the project (I was hoping to head out to the farmer’s market right away) so we stayed.

As the minutes went by, her energy became more and more withdrawn, so unlike herself, as she sat and tried to wait patiently for her turn with the gluestick. I could tell that this was not satisfying…like just one bite of a chocolate chip cookie. After about 10 minutes, I asked if she was done and she was quite ready to leave this project behind.

I mulled it over during quiet time.  Despite my observation of her not enjoying the project, she did enjoy the overall storytime experience and wants to go back every week.  She was very successful on the impulse control/sharing front.  I wanted to acknowledge that AND give her  for a balancing, playful experience. After working so hard on restraint, I wanted to give her a chance to fully explore.

After quiet time, I asked her if she wanted to do a glue project which got a cheerful “YES!” in response.  So I gave her paper, two gluesticks (a bounty in our house!) and a bottle of glue and let her go for it.

LP enjoyed glue to her heart’s content for about half an hour.  I sat with her at the table and worked on my own crafty project and just enjoyed her pleasure.

It is a helpful frame for me…when LP has worked to rise to the occasion that calls for restraint, to give her an opportunity to be fully expressive and exuberant — whether that means a chance to run free after a long bus ride or sculpt glue (& herself) until she’s done with it.

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