Have you ever heard of flow? It is a theory that applies to young children and those just young at heart, well really everyone. Think of a hobby you love, have you ever sat down to engage in that activity and you just lose track of time. You get so engaged that you look up at the clock expecting it to be 5 minutes and it’s been 2 hours? That is flow. This is where the perfect amount of challenge meets the perfect amount of enjoyment. This is what happens in powerful play for children.
Here at Hideaboo we take play seriously. It is a child’s work, more important than homework in my book…play for children of all ages, especially high quality, meaningful or what we call powerful play heals, teaches, amplifies, and motivates children to fulfill their potential and explore the world around them. Here are a few tips for setting the stage for powerful play!
So without any more soap box didactics here is my list…
- Children decide. Children have to have the freedom to choose what to play and how that play progresses. Open-ended materials are a great way for parents to support this. Instead of expensive toys that serve one purpose throw in some loose parts like blocks, foam pieces, craft scraps, sticks gathered from outside, walnut shells or even what I call beautiful junk…cereal boxes, egg cartons, paper towel rolls, PVC pieces. When we buy a dump truck it can serve really only one purpose but when we set out boxes and loose parts that is where decisions can be made.
- Play is not dictated. Either by toys or adults or sometimes other children. Play is collaborative in a group or spontaneous when children are independent.
- Create an environment where flow can take place. Kids need time, not necessarily your time, they just need time to imagine and play undeterred and untimed. Let them get bored and sometimes I have found with students who have not had a lot of practice I have to model so they open up their minds a bit to what play can be. Just get them started and throws open the gates.
- Play is a need from within. Next to food and sleep play is the next most natural extension of a child’s self. It is a place where social skills are not forced, but to remain part of an activity that is so motivating children learn to give and take with friends, they develop seeds of self-control, compassion, self-assurance that become who they are in later years. Play is a stress reliever and a way for children to make sense of a word that sometimes is beyond understanding even for me.
- And last but not least play must be FUN! If it isn’t happy, joyful, or at least enjoyable it is just an activity.
Powerful play is the play that becomes a part of who we are that digs down into our minds and becomes the moments of joy that we remember as children. And just as our children need play so do we, you are never too old for powerful play!