Wednesday, August 17, 2011

processing play


i wasn't much of a player as a child.
play for me was organizing games, organizing things, and bossing people.
i did love playing school,
but only if i got to be the teacher.
this is not how my sisters played.
they played barbies for endless hours at a time with a big major plot that resumed every time they pulled out the barbies.
typically it was a plot that involved tragedy and rescue.
i could recognize even then that i played different,
and i worried if my type of playing was ok.
surprisingly, all these years later,
i still worry about play.
i know how very important play is for children,
so i often worry if my children's play is right, or ok, or what they need.
because of the exposure to the players in my life,
(my sisters & their kids)
i always think play is supposed to happen like this:
buy a toy,
like a train track, legos, hot wheels tracks, etc.,
the children will spend endless hours setting it up how it is intended,
turn it into their imaginary world,
and sit alone for large amounts of time playing.
they have great children players;
that is really how their kids play.
that is NOT how my children play.
they CAN play that way when they are with other kids,
but that is not their choice of play when left to their own vices.
my boys,
and even maggie,
prefer play that doesn't even involve toys,
or involves more physical action,
more destruction,
like taking things apart or trying to figure out something works.
or using lots of tape or bungee cords.
or something that involves pulling tree branches out of trees.
or wrestling relentlessly with one another.
or making intricate pillow forts at the bottom of the stairs to jump into.
or making zoomer motorcycles.
and a lot of things that need the assistance of their mother.
and on and on.

i recently walked into the front room to a very typical site.
they had set up their hot wheels tracks,
but not in the "normal" way.
the blast off gate was connected to a long series of tracks that started at the back top of the couch,
went down and across the floor,
and through the spindles of the banister.
at the end of the track they cleverly placed a glass of water.
the goal was to get the red lightening, green machine, or purple phantom car into the water cup as they dropped from the end of the track.
i ended that fun by explaining we could not have water on carpet stairs.
it didn't stop them.
instead they diverted the end of the track out the front door,
off the porch steps,
and then into the cup of water.
this game actually lasted for quite some time.
i didn't even know what to do with myself because play at our house NEVER lasts this long,
so i just watched their process.
and then i watched their play shift to another activity.
they emptied their big toy buckets,
put them in the bathtub,
and filled them up for "hot tubs".
they sat in their for quite some time.

so the point of all this?
i used to wonder much more than i do now if their play was ok.
i worried if i had forced my style of play on them
and worried if they were developing play conflict like i did.
and i have really worried if i just have not bought the right toys.
i'm learning now that play doesn't always look the same,
but it's still play.
at the suggestion of a family member i have attempted a more structured type of play.
the kind where i sit on the floor with them and try to direct them on how to play with toys the right way.
it never works.
they grow very bored.
so as we are cleaning up the atypical messes,
putting back together the broken experiment of the day,
or trying to find lost hot wheels cars in the bushes,
i will just remember the powerful wonder of play,
and be glad my children are experiencing it at such intense levels.


Ganny said...

Well, What can I say?

Uriona Family said...

I wish my kids would play that well. I worry that my kids don't use their imaginations near enough. They always play with toys as they are intended (like I did) and never branch out. I am always asking, why don't you pretend this is...bla bla bla and they look at me like I'm crazy. Relish in it! It is wonderful!

Vanderlinden Clan said...

stacy, perhaps we all worry too much? :) i hope we are not surprised when all of our kids turn out just fine.

Ganny said...

Remember Jeff's Car Town in the basement. Now that was imagination!!!!!! It included hours of thinking, and rolls and rolls of masking tape.

katwalk said...

I like the hot tubs just think if you put them in the sun you could taught about solar heat use a white and a black one and see which get warmer first, I still remember test temps of your solar experiment did you ever check the temps? Jerry did a good job on that one. do you remember?

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