My two year old told me that daddy worked at the “Blue Oval” he smiled widely, and he added that “Daddy makes the cars”. That is correct my toddler has an understanding to some degree of what his father does for a living. He then told me that I work at a building. When I asked him what do I do at the building he simply replied “Work”. Stifling a giggle I wanted to keep the conversation going. Where do you work? He smiled and said “Library.” I said okay. What do you do at the library? He said with more confidence than I saw coming… I Play! I asked him if he gets paid to play and he said Yes! Eventually I learned that he gets paid with cookies at his job.
I am telling this story because how often do we think of our kids job as play? We know that they need to learn things. We know that they need to be fed and to sometimes go to classes but play…that is the thing that my son focused on. He is right that play is in fact his job. Through play our little ones learn to share, learn to build and even problem solve. Creativity is discovered and nurtured through play. His small world makes sense when he can create his own scenarios.
Free play allows our little ones to learn a lot about themselves and it can also allow us to learn a lot about our kids. Here are some ideas to nurture a fun environment for free play…
-Allow them to be creative-My son puts buckets on his head and calls himself a robot with the same bucket last year that he collected rocks in.
-set aside time about 15-30 minutes a day to nurture this activity.
-get on the floor with them but allow them to lead.
-If you have a library with a play area be sure to take them there to explore items that are different from the toys that you have at home.
– Sticks, cardboard boxes, rocks, paper towel insert rolls work-don’t feel pressure to have actual toys during free play-they will figure it out.
Tara Michener is a mom, therapist, author, wife and lover of all things caffeinated. When she is not working at her practice or signing her children’s book collection she is running after a giggly, sweet and self-determined two year old who is dedicated to challenging mom to be her best. www.taramichener.com