A teacher friend that I just told about the blog shared with me that she knew what to do with preschool aged children, but was wondering if she was doing enough with her infant son.
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It was such a touching moment in an otherwise rushed conversation. Z’s mama was essentially telling me that she didn’t know if she was doing all that she could for the son whom she loves so dearly.
Then I wondered, do other parents wonder if they they offer enough play stuff for their children?
I share the thought processes behind many types of our parenting decisions. I write about the play that my daughters are doing, the toys/materials they use to share what works for us, and why. There are no templates for following your child’s lead, because all our children are different.
Play is about giving children chances. Knowing that children, even very young children, are capable of many more things than we give them the opportunity to do. Chances to pour their own water or to use a paint brush. Chances to be something else, or at least look like something else.
I recently shared these thoughts about sensory play, but all of these materials are really unnecessary if your child has a safe interesting play space. If I hadn’t offered the girls extra materials and instead took them outside to play (as I often do), their sensory experiences would be just as rich. Everything from the prickly feel of grass blades to the grit of coarse sand, children who experience life experience learning.
I’ve written before about how I hold off on lots of experiences because I think that while I want my daughters experience all the wonderful things in this world, I don’t think they need to experience them all right now.
As much as I love art, I’ve looked to my daughters to clue me into when they are ready for more. My eldest daughter has been using paint for about two years now, but it was just this last month that I offered her more than three colors (pre-mixed) at a time.
Toys, art, books – all of these material things are conduits of play. They are props designed to help the children’s ideas come to life and keep them playing their ideas in their own way. This is why I believe that they are just as occupied with pine cones as they are with fabricated toys.
The most important learning they do really has nothing to do with the kind of paint they use or the books we read together, but rather with the values conveyed to them by just letting them play. Learning to trust themselves, speak their minds, show generosity, and problem-solve may happen through activities, but it is the opportunity to play that makes this possible.
Offering our children activities is a joyous part of parenting, but I don’t think of it as being an essential part of what she’ll need to love life.
The next time you wonder if you are offering enough art, science, or whatever else, remember that play is enough.