Sunday, June 5, 2011

More ideas on free play

Last week we talked about the value of providing that our children have enough time to play. Often parents feel they must schedule activities throughout the day, leaving little or no time unscheduled. Yet, from infancy, children are driven to play with almost anything at hand. They learn much from unscheduled playtime and the most important thing they learn is to use their minds to create. During childhood they created (if given the time) rich, imaginative worlds. In adult life these same people are the creators of works of art or discoverers of scientific breakthroughs. These are the people who imagined outer space as a child and who take us there as adults. They are the ultimate free-play thinkers.
Our grandparents and great-grandparents did not worry about whether or not children played. Of course they played! Play was the blessing and the work of young children. Today, there is much more pressure to provide for and enroll children in many activities from lessons to sports. Of course these activities can be good, but they also can sap all a young child’s energy, leaving no time for using their minds to create play. I suggest that we need to provide a balance.
1) Set the stage for play. For very young children, rotate the kinds of toys they have in their play space--typically your kitchen or living room. Give toddlers a few items for them to use their imaginations—a plastic cup, plate, and spoon; some blocks; or some boxes to crawl into. For preschoolers, you can add paper and crayons; an old telephone; or dress-up clothes.
2) Observe how the props for your stage are working and modify. For the toddler with the play dishes, you can add a pot and spoon or a plastic tub with a little water and dish soap sitting on a towel. For the preschoolers, you will be able to add paints or scissors or some real tools. Spend as much time as possible outside where an entirely new play will evolve.
3) Provide ample time for the play to evolve and most importantly—use the television or computer only for those special shows or activities. Think about how much time your child sits on the couch. Turn the TV off. Children do not learn to use their minds by being a couch potato!

This is the farmer who plows the field.
This is the farmer who plants the corn.
This is the farmer who harvests the beans.
This is the farmer who milks the cows.
And this is the farmer’s little girl, who feeds the chickens and finds the eggs and picks some flowers for her mother. (or) And this is the farmer’s little boy
who feeds the calves and pets the cows and brings the milk to his mother.

Original chant by Eileen L. Ziesler
Character creation by Steven Baye

This chant is similar to the fingerplay, This little piggy went to market.  Start with the thumb for the first farmer. Use the pinkie finger for the little boy or girl.

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