In our often rushed and structured lifestyles, kids are typically shuffled along their day, directed into being told what to learn, when to eat, how to play and how much time they have for everything. Children's programs are typically structured, where the goal is to learn a certain skill, requiring a predetermined set of instructions and lessons for them to achieve that skill. These skills and programs have their own benefits, but are we balancing this with enough time and space for children to fall back on their own ideas, resources and problem solving abilities?
"Play is by its nature flexible, changeable and multi-faceted, so an adequate environment for play is one that provides a platform from which play can take off. It doesn’t proscribe certain activities or feelings, but does have hints and pathways, suggestions and possibilities." (Environments for outdoor play)
How can we balance out our often structured, constrained lives, with creating little pockets of more time and space each day?
Environment - Setting up an environment with less toys and more space often allows for imaginative and creative play. Make more space for ideas and clear out the clutter.
Let them be bored - Children take approximately 30-40 mins to figure what they want to do, and how they want to play. Giving them more time to be bored, gives them more time to think and create. "But if we don't give them something to do, they will be bouncing off the wall!" Pro tip - take away the walls and get them outside.
Let them lead - We as adults often feel the need to jump into this time with kids giving them new ideas, games or skills to work on, and leaving little space and time for them to create for themselves. Being present with them provides the support they need, without giving them all of the answers.
Fear - Children are often told no, many more times then they are told yes each day. In our anxious world, kids are typically not given the opportunities to explore and move freely. "Don't jump in the puddles, don't pick up that stick, don't climb that tree, sit still with your legs crossed etc." By providing a little more time and allowing for just a little more space for children to explore their own physical boundaries and assess their own risks, the opportunities for kids to develop intrinsic self confidence, awareness and motivation increases.
Relying on their own resources - Children will typically turn to an adult, parent or teacher to help them solve a problem. (Ex. Solving a social problem or conflict with a peer, asking adults to build something for them, or draw something for them.) By giving them time to think about possible solutions, reflecting back their own questions and giving them space to learn how to think not what to think, they will have more opportunities to build their own problem solving abilities and confidence when facing challenging situations in the future.
In this ever changing world, we need adaptable, resilient, critical thinkers.
Where can we allow for more pockets of time to dawdle, to wonder and to look up at the clouds...
more space to move freely, explore boundaries and create without intended outcomes?