What does independent play look like to you? Is it the sight of a child building towers, painting, drawing, pushing trains happily around a track, reading stories to dolls?
You would be right in thinking that this is what independent play can look like.
These are all perfectly valid images of how independent play might look. However, what happens when our children choose a different route. When they paint the dolls face, or drop bricks one by one down the stairs. To many parents, these actions are seen as defiant or destructive behaviour. They bemoan the fact that their children can’t be left for one moment without wreaking havoc, and wish that they could learn to play properly.
But what these parents are missing, is that their children ARE playing. They are exploring and experimenting with the resources at hand. To us, their way may seem somehow “wrong” but it is a child’s business to take a toy and explore all the possibilities that come with it.
Yes I could build a tower with those bricks, but what else could I do with them? I wonder what sound they make when they fall? Do they bounce?
This doll is lovely and soft, I wonder how this paintbrush would feel on her face? I wonder how she might look with stripes on her?
Supporting A Healthy Passion For Play
Of course, it is important to protect our homes from being damaged and teach our children boundaries. But coming in to a situation and seeing a curious child who is playing and exploring, rather than a disobedient child who never listens and makes so much work, makes the world of difference to our reaction.
Instead of undermining the child’s passion to learn through play, by reprimanding or punishing them for giving in to their natural impulses, we can come up with a creative solution that enables the child to choose their own path in play.
When the play is not damaging, but you are worried about what others may think, or perhaps, wishing your child liked to colour quietly, rather than jumping up and down exuberantly on a pile of cushions, look inside yourself. These problems are for us as parents to address within ourselves, and we should try to be mindful not to inflict these unachievable expectations on to our children. Perhaps, excuse yourself to another room so they can play without your interference and direction, until you become more comfortable with accepting that this IS their version of independent play.
Try to see each situation from the child’s point of view. From here we can see that their intentions are good and they mean no ill intent. They are simply blessed with a curious mind and an impulse to explore.
Let them play.
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