Protect time and space for creative play
Today I want you to protect time and space for creative play in your home.
Think about the role of imaginative play in your child’s life. This is the kind of play when your child is creating a little world of his own by pretending and imagining.
Does your child have enough time to play and just be?
Do you prioritize open-ended play over structured or guided activities?
Does your child have a chance to get bored sometimes and then come through it on the other side with some unique and creative way to have fun?
Play is the heart of Waldorf-inspired early childhood. Play is the child’s work and learning laboratory. It’s their means of discovering the world, digesting and making sense of what they learn, and exercising their innate human creativity. Play is a central human tendency because it’s essential for proper development: Physical, social, cognitive, and emotional development all depend on play.
Much of what is offered to young children in the modern world is overly structured and limits their freedom to play. Young children spend much of their day in formal lessons or activities, in classrooms, or in front of media. Many of the toys and art materials offered to young children today promote only a stilted and restricted version of play. Press this button! Cut on this line and paste here! Play a phonics computer game! These activities dumb children down. I’m not suggesting that you need to shield your child from all of modern culture. I just think it’s important to leave lots of room for healthy play.
Creating an imaginary world, transforming objects in the imagination, imitating adult work, acting out stories, pretending and making up games with friends….these activities are the natural work of childhood and they lift children up.
How to protect time and space for creative play:
1. Make sure that your daily routine includes a good amount of time for play.
2. Let your child play as much as possible with very simple open-ended toys, tools, and art materials. Do your child’s toys and activities leave room for imagination? (We’ll come back to this in a future post.)
3. Prioritize play time over activities that might sound like play but really are not, such as lessons or group activities. You don’t have to stay home all the time, but you can feel good about that choice when you do!
4. Remember that play is a way for young children to blow off steam, relax, and process what they’ve learned and experienced. So it’s even more important if a child has been in a structured environment (such as a class, trip to a museum, outing to run errands, library story time, etc.) to give them plenty of time to play and unwind afterwards.
How do you protect time and space for creative play in your home? Do you struggle to find a balance between open-ended and structured activities? What's your number one takeaway from this step?