Lately I often hear this statement: today’s children no longer know how to play, not like before.
And I always keep thinking about this statement. Is it really possible that children do not know how to play? If it is something innate in them, almost as much as breathing.
So that leads me to wonder … What is failing? Have a great mass of children really lost that ability? I do not think so. I believe that the problem does not lie with them and it seems fair to me that we change our focus. The children are fine, they come with what is necessary to this world to be able to play. What has changed is the environment in which they develop.
AND WHAT IS THAT ENVIRONMENT LIKE TODAY?
Well, in general, an environment that is too stimulating , either due to excess technology or having materials and toys within reach that work by themselves and allow little action on the part of the child.
On the other hand, there is a lack of time . During the week, the hours in school plus the extracurricular hours consume time. Weekends are often planned to the minute as well. We live so fast that we organize every second of free time with activities and more activities. Even if they are playful, even if they are fun … sometimes the child does not need that, but to be at home, calm … and with time to develop his game.
Both factors, overstimulation and lack of time, mean that children are continuously stimulated. When suddenly they are calmer … sometimes they don’t even know what to do. Or they get very nervous, because their brain misses the torrent of stimuli they are used to.
So for free play to emerge at home autonomously, it is important that we rethink well the environment in which children grow up. Well, free play, in a way, happens like freedom … it is conditioned by the environment (and culture) in which it takes place .
PREPARE THE SPACE WELL
For a child to develop and play autonomously at home, it is necessary that the space is well prepared. It is useless to have the house full of plasticine or paint if they do not have it within reach. If all the toys are locked in cupboards they will not be a claim for the child, etc.
I leave you 4 basic ideas to start preparing a space or play area at home well:
– That the space is suggestive . To do this, as I have told you, it is best to have the materials at your fingertips. Low, open shelving is ideal for this.
– That everything is (moderately) ordered . As you can see, I say moderately tidy, hehe. I am not referring to neat spaces in which everything is squared in its place. But there must be a certain order… otherwise they won’t find anything and there is nothing more discouraging than wanting to play with something and not having a clue where it is.
– That the space is not too full of stimuli . It’s hard to focus on something when stimulation comes in from all sides, right? So it’s nice to think about what we put in the play space and what we don’t.
Is there too much noise, colors or clutter involved? In this article he talked about excess toys and how to deal with it.
– That is appropriate to his age. When children are very young sometimes parents are so excited that we rush, I include myself. We want to offer you quality materials, which we like … but maybe it’s soon. No hurry. Luckily … I think that this “bad” passes over the years and experience, hehe.
RE-THINK WHAT MATERIALS AND TOYS HAVE AT YOUR REACH
I already talked to you in this post about the importance of offering quality toys , in the sense of offering materials that provide quality in the experience (imagine, discover, create …). But I think it is interesting to ask ourselves two basic questions as well.
- WHAT ARE MY CHILDREN INTERESTED IN?
This is a basic question to be able to offer children materials that are interesting to them. We can fill the house with materials that are recommended to us in many places as “optimal or ideal” but if they do not arouse the interest of the child, they will remain on the shelf collecting dust. Or do we read a book that does not arouse us any interest, even if it is a bestseller?
That does not mean that they should only have what they verbalize or ask for. For example, if you ask Earthman, he will rarely ask for a puzzle or colors to paint. But I know that when he has them within reach he uses them and enjoys them.
That is why I invite you to observe your little ones. What do they play with? Are they interested in the professions? Are they more fanciful? What sparks your interest? What can be good for a particular child?
- WHAT DO WE WANT TO HAPPEN AT HOME?
And this is another question that I think is important to ask. Do we want them to play with technology yes or no? Do we want them to have room to run and jump? Do we really want them to play autonomously? And by that I mean being able to direct their own game, to “act” according to their own internal dictates, their tastes, their concerns …
In that case, let us offer materials that adapt to these concerns and minimize the technological devices, which absorb and disconnect them so much.
OK, I’VE DONE IT ALL BUT HE DOESN’T PLAY BY HIMSELF. WHY?
Well, the truth is that there is no single answer for it and it is possible that there are many factors combined with each other. Each child, his history, his family and environment are unique so general answers are not useful.
But I do want to leave some reflections here in case someone is useful:
– Do parents entertain ourselves independently without TV or mobile? Because if we are all day with the phone in our hands, it is normal for them to ask us for a phone. Can we have a good time reading, playing or enjoying something? I’m sure you won’t be surprised if I tell you that children imitate us, a lot.
– Are the children very directed and busy all day ? It may be a good idea to rethink what extracurricular activities the little ones do (if they do) and try to get as much free time as possible, whatever it may be. For example … going out to the park, the field … Or if you want to do extracurricular activities, think about those that are more open, such as psychomotor workshops, free dance, play groups …
– How does that little boy feel at that moment or stage ? It’s a bit of a big question, I know. But you may be afraid to try new things, to make mistakes, or to be alone with a new situation or object. I am not going to go into depth on this topic, it is something huge to talk about in a post and there are surely people who can accompany you closely. But I wanted to write it down as an idea because sometimes we unconsciously shake them or blame them (come on, but play with everything you have … and all these sensational toys and materials that we offer you …) and it is possible that they are simply afraid (of not knowing, to be wrong …) or do not know where to start.
– Are the parents present ? Because the child needs to feel free to play and develop, but also to know where to find the adult’s hand when they need it.
And this is all I wanted to tell you on this topic. I finish by emphasizing the question in the title Do children really no longer know how to play? I trust that they are capable, that children are imaginative and competent, they only need environments and environments that allow them to develop that innate ability to play, freely and autonomously, according to their own interests and concerns.
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