A JUMPING OFF POINT FOR GROWTH
Knowing that children grow best through play, parents must think intentionally about the environments that best support play. It is in these spaces, both indoors and outdoors, that the experiences children have become the jumping off point for their growth. In order to nurture holistic growth and support opportunities for rich everyday experiences through play, we must think carefully about where and how we invite children to play. By inviting children to freely explore environments that offer new experiences, we support children’s aptitude and desire for unique and fresh explorations that naturally lead them down pathways of wonder, curiosity, and learning.
RICH ENVIRONMENTS MAKE A DIFFERENCE
As parents, taking time to be thoughtful about the spaces you welcome children to explore makes a difference. You enhance the play experience for children simply by creating spaces that invite rich play to the life of children. It is critical that you take time to be intentional about environments for play, as these choices have the potential to evoke (or limit) the natural curiosity of children. By offering carefully selected environments that offer the freedom to explore in open-ended ways makes for a more enhanced play experience for your children.
CHILDREN INVEST IN THEIR OWN PLAY
By including open-ended and accessible materials within a space that offers the flexibility to move, explore and work, children become more invested in the play. Through this investment, children’s growth, creativity, and innovation unfolds and children take a deeper dive into their own self-chosen and self-directed play. When children have the time and space to freely explore such rich environments along with the relationships therein, they become more engaged and empowered through these explorations of play.
BUT DON’T I NEED TO MAKE PLAY HAPPEN?
As parents creating, offering, and supporting spaces that invite rich play does not mean that you need to plan and facilitate play for your child. Nor does it mean that you must observe or engage in the play with them through every breathing moment ~ although at times you will join in. On the contrary, self-chosen and self-directed play nourishes a sense of autonomy in children. It establishes a sense of independence, and helps children discover what magic lies within their own curiosity, wonder, creativity, and explorations.
THE ROLE OF A PARENT
Your role as a parent is not to create or direct the play but instead, it is in the best interest of your children to invite them to spaces and environments that welcome and enrich play encounters. Consider yourself an advocate for play. Discovering, creating, and one day collaboratively constructing play environments together with your children each add more depth to the overall investment in play for both you and your children.
When your children are developmentally ready to co-create a shared vision of play together with you, you will be modeling how to share in meaningful and collaborative ways with one another. You will nurture in your children the ability to communicate and reflect on what it is that brings a joyful and engaging experience to everyday play. You will help your children become more skilled at self-directing their own learning and creating conditions that empower them to be creators, inventors, researchers, and independent thinkers. Your children will develop a plethora of life skills that will help enable them to work thoughtfully with others while committing to their own journey of discovery and growth through play.
In the beginning when your children are young and still learning what makes for a rich environment, you may wish to choose to make and model these choices for your child. This is an important part of the learning process that emerges from play. Co-constructing play environments and determining what preferences are included is another layer that can be eventually added to the experiences you share with your children. In the beginning, however, you may choose to start this journey by making and modeling these choices for your children. Consider yourself an advocate for play throughout all stages of exploration with play environments as well as play itself.
PLAY IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF CHILDHOOD
Additionally, by making and protecting time and spaces for play you are modeling for, and advocating on behalf of your children that play is a necessary and essential part of childhood. These are two of the most important things you can do for your children.
NURTURE A PLAYFUL PHILOSOPHY FOR LIFE
When you make your beliefs known and you live by your philosophy each day, you are laying the groundwork for how your children see themselves; essentially, you are nourishing a positive self-identity from within. These family-held beliefs will become a part of your child’s life, their identify, and their way of being. Your philosophy and the actions you take to breathe life into it everyday will shape the perspective your children hold about themselves and childhood as whole.
When you help your children appreciate the value of the environments in which they play, you are nurturing a playful philosophy for life. This belief system will remain with your children throughout their days and help to nourish their overall health and well-being.
In light of this big picture perspective of the relationship between childhood, play, and life, we are reminded that it is not for parents to ‘create the play’ but rather to present children with a the environments, time, opportunity, and philosophy of play that supports an everyday, open invitation to inspire what comes most naturally to them ~ and that is play.
As always, I welcome you to share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Founder ~ Nurtured Inspirations
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