No mediation talk today, Let's Play!
Since the heavy snow began to fall a week ago, I have enjoyed watching neighbourhood children building snow forts, flying down the toboggan hills, and throwing snowballs. Their joy has been on display. All these playful displays reminded me of the benefits children get from play, beyond the sheer happiness they experience. Here are a few reminders about what is going on in children’s brains and hearts when they play.
Children are using their imagination. That snow fort that they dug might be their spaceship, their first apartment or a hideout from which to fire their snowballs. The options are limitless and what that snow fort is today, it may not be tomorrow.
Children learn to organize and problem solve. You may have overheard children spend hours discussing and creating the rules for their new game. The play time pales in comparison. They are learning how to identify and resolve problems, to share information and to listen to each other.
Children are making sense of their world. Through play children will recreate parts of their world and act out ideas or themes that appeal or trouble them.
Children are taking risks. When playing in groups, children are evaluating the risks in trying something new, taking the lead or making a bold move. They can test themselves without feeling like they are being graded.
Children are connecting. When playing alone children are connecting with themselves and when playing with others, children are nurturing friendships or connections with family.
Children are building physical competency. They are learning hand-eye or foot-eye coordination, climbing, throwing, and balancing to name just a few.
Children are building their independence. Whether it’s a four-year-old playing teacher and creating lessons, or a 12-year-old walking to the park with friends to skate, play offers time to build the blocks of independence.
So no divorce, separation or mediation talk today. Let's bring out some smiles.
If life has put a damper on your children’s play or creativity, here are some ideas to help them (and you) find joy in play. And remember, play has many benefits, but it should not be a project, let your kids take the lead.
Build a domino/block maze or your own Rube Goldberg machine. (see above picture)
Write a play or story
Make a scavenger hunt and send your children to find rarely used household items, heck you could add missing socks and their lost lunch bag to the list. The internet has hundreds of lists you can start with, or have your kids create a list of objects for you to find.
Learn to create balloon animals, origami, or hand shadow shapes
Use playing cards to build a house of cards, a village or castle
Make your own obstacle course (include water spray bottles, think a home version of WIPEOUT). With older children use a laser pointer to direct the course route.
Make some soapy bubble mix and take it out into the cold and snow
Create a home bowling alley using what is on hand
Have a pillow fight
Build a blanket fort, throw in a flashlight or sparkly lights and see where it takes your children.
I hope these ideas provide inspiration and look forward to hearing what brought out the biggest smiles.