When we were younger play meant creating elaborate games and rules and sticking to them and learning the consequences of not sticking to them.
It meant loosing and winning and getting banned from the game then negotiating your way back into it.
It meant using pillows, blankets and sticks to make forts and boats and small houses for our toys.
It was falling down and getting back up and a lot of running and jumping and rolling.
It was ‘lets pretend I’m the teacher and you’re the student’ or ‘doctor and patient’ or other detailed fantasies that involved planning and role playing and creating worlds out of everyday things.
It meant elaborate performances with many different parts and props and costumes.
It meant pretending we were waiters in a restaurant and writing out menus and planning meals.
It was learning essential life skills through child led play. It was concentrating on who we were at that moment and through that preparing ourselves for who we were going to be in the future.
It seems now that spaces smaller, more crowded and less friendly. Schools start earlier and children grow up sooner. We don’t go outside enough. The weather was as hot when we were young as it is now and yet I remember being outside A Lot!
So many children don’t play anymore. Not like we used to. When my son invited some of his friends over once one of the mothers said “is it a mine craft party” to which I replied “huh”. She said “should I send his iPad? So they connect and play mine craft”. Most play dates will inevitably end up with kids huddled around an iPad or computer of some sort or watching a movie.
I am not against TV and movies and iPads for kids. In fact I think banning electronics completely could be detrimental to children as they would be handicapped in an area of life of increasing importance. I do however believe it is our duty to curb the amount of time children spend on them. Treat them like junk food.
When we were living in London 7 years ago it somehow came to be that the kids were not allowed to watch TV during the week. Actually, to be fair, it was discouraged and instead they were encouraged to play! When we finally moved back to Riyadh it became a rule.
When given the space and time my kids built forts, made experiments, played pretend games and yes were all over me and all over the house during the week. They play fight and fight fight and find different and interesting ways to entertain themselves. If we watch at all during the week its something we do together. And generally consists of programs on the documentary channel or animal planet.
Lately B has been stalking around the house pretending he’s a ninja and scaring the living daylights out of me. Special K today was a wolf and I was the mama wolf and we spent quite a while making what we decided are wolf sounds at each other and nuzzling each other which was lovely. J has been busy working on her Moon Fame project or practicing gymnastics and giving me heart attacks and S is either at swimming practice, kicking a ball around or reading. My heart swells! He’s less than 100 pages away from finishing a 400 page book.
The great thing is they really don’t miss it. Special K asks me daily “is it school days?” and when I say yes he says “No iPad” and thats that. He does watch Peppa Pig religiously on the weekends but I don’t mind as long as he doesn’t sit for more than half an hour at a time and not more than an hour and half a day. By the time Saturday comes around he’s calling me ‘Mummy’.
Don’t feel the need to keep your kids entertained all the time. Forbid the words “I’m Bored” and give them a space to go crazy and make a mess. Yes your living room or playroom may end up looking like this.
But thats just a sign they had an amazing amount of fun!
People tend to forget that play is serious.
When was the last time you played?