Monday, June 6, 2011

Let Them Be

Yesterday I had the privilege of watching a friend's little ones for the morning.  After just a few minutes inside the house, everyone was ready to head outdoors and explore.  I was more than happy to let them free in the yard, keeping an eye out from my perch on the deck.

I've always been a laid back Mama, but the more years I get under my belt, the more laid back I get (about certain things.).  One of those areas is in letting kids play - whatever that looks like.

Real, authentic play is real, authentic learning.  My one year old charge settled himself comfortably nearby a mud puddle and lobbed a few rocks in.  Noticing a splotch of mud on his finger, he went in for a taste.  Next thing I knew, he was completely in the mud puddle, joyously splashing.  Perfect.

The bigger kids ran to and fro, discovering spiders making their homes in the corners of  the yard; creating mini "fairy houses" out of sticks, rocks and leaves.  Playing.  Imagining. Discovering. Unencumbered.

When evaluating whether or not to intervene with kids' play, I ask myself the following:

Is it hurting anything?  Destructive play is not ok with me, so I will intervene if someone is breaking something.

Is it safe?  If there is no imminent danger to the child or anyone else, I let them be.

I want my kids to be able to explore, to experience the world around them and to learn in the purest, most natural way possible.  As a result, I don't make a big deal about clothing for them (it helps to have a good "play clothes" wardrobe so I'm not upset if something gets ruined!).  Does letting my kids play in this manner make more work for me?  In some ways, yes.  More baths, more laundry.  But I wouldn't want to inhibit their learning for my convenience. 

Today is another beautiful day.  Childhood is calling, and its not a clean little package of sweet smelling loveliness.  It is caked with dirt, stacked high with sticks, stuck all over with popsicle juice and covered with a layer of finger paint.  Taking a deep breath, pouring another cup of coffee and letting them get out in it.

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  1. Perfect! And of course I love the pictures of my little one!

  2. Exactly. I love the look of a muddy child, because they are the happiest kind. :)

  3. Yes! I wish so badly we had a big yard where the kids could run free. Right now in our condo we just have a little space to play but we take them to the park and let them get crazy. My best memories of childhood are playing so hard that I couldn't be bothered to come inside to use the bathroom, ha ha.

  4. I'd love to know your thoughts on intervening during kids' play when it turns into kids fighting (verbally or physically).

  5. Johanna - that falls under "someone getting hurt." I do intervene when people start fighting, usually by removing someone from the equation. Hurting others is not an acceptable form of entertainment.

  6. But where do you draw the line? My toddlers constantly fight over sharing stuff, or something being taken away, or do little things that aren't so painful (like a little shove) but that the other overreacts to. Sometimes I get involved to teach, and other times I ignore it - partly because I don't want to micromanage their play, partly because I hope to have a larger family and don't want to get into disciplinary habits I can't sustain, and partly because I'm lazy. btw this is Shena!

  7. Shena - I guess it is one of those things where there is no hard and fast rule. I'm the same - sometimes I get involved, and sometimes I let them hash it out. Sometimes I don't know who had it first, or who isn't sharing, and I make the wrong call. But I seriously don't believe that a little unfairness in the life of a child is really the end of the world. Toddlers are learning so much, and a lot of their behavior now will automatically change as they grow. And a lot of our teaching at this stage goes in one ear and out the other - its just not where they are, cognitively.

    So I guess in response, there is no line.


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