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Your Child Should Be Playing: A LOT!

A slide and small world castle :)

I just read a post by a mom who is devastated that she failed her child because he was not sitting for long enough each morning and refusing to try different ways to answer a question after he got the answer wrong.

And her child is FOUR years old!

But here's the thing: of course she feels this way!

How could she not? We're constantly being bombarded by messages like these other posts:

"my friend who used to be a kindergarten teacher sent me the list of what should be taught in pre-k to get them ready - please how do you get your kids to sit and learn?"

"my 4yo used to love to read and learn, but now I can't get him to sit down and practice his letters for more than a few minutes!"

And my favorite

THE Q: "help! what do you do to get your kids to sit and do their work for more than 5 minutes? My 2.5 & 4yo won't sit still!"

THE A: "I bribe them - one piece of chocolate for each right answer."

What will happen to our children if we keep moving on this path of unrealistic and ridiculous demands of our sweetest, youngest beings??

We are ripping childhood and play and magic and imagination and all of the beautiful ingredients that are proven to lead to truly balanced, happy, contributors to society right out of our children's sweet, little fingers!

And this is the inherent problem with our culture: we are too focused on the wrong things:

"success" "failure" "answers"

And we ask

💔 will my child fall behind?

💔 why isn't my child like that OTHER child over there?

💔 why isn't my child walking...reading...a hotshot yet?

So instead I ask you to consider: how might the world look and feel if we let TRUTH & PLAY & LAUGHTER lead the way instead of letting our fear and anxiety control our choices (which is based on misleading and unrealistic expectations of what children and school these days should "accomplish")??

What if instead of focusing on what isn't working from our fear-led perspectives, we celebrated ALL of the ways our children were blooming in their OWN way instead?

If you are reading this right now and thinking, "but what about learning to be a good student? There's got to be a time when we instill good learning habits in our children...or they'll never know how to function in a workplace or in society!"My answer to you is that play is truly the best way to accomplish what you seek also! This is because by play I do NOT mean do whatever we want all the time, never focus, never work, never goal-set. I also do not mean advocating for never learning patience, sitting still, working hard for an extended time at something, or challenging ourselves.

No, I am advocating quite the opposite! I am affirming that play is the BEST way not only to meet all of the skills above, but to also constantly reinforce our children's true natural talents, passions, interests, and development into a fully formed, whole, and balanced human being. Imagine Hide & Seek without quiet and patience? Or Simon Says without following directions? Can you begin to see why these games are not only time old classics but also extremely beneficial to our development? Why our brains might be seeking out the whimsical, laid back, fun way to learn these skills?

Because the opposite scenario breeds either one of two things:

Compliant children or "troublemakers"

Now imagine, that our supposed "troublemakers", those kids who kick and scream and fight the system and are "problematic, rude, exhausting, have to be 'controlled'" - imagine if they were actually the canaries in the coal mine! Might we consider that these children are the only ones who are truly brave enough to risk making known what all of us feel inside when we're trapped by a system of rules that does not truly support us? Sometimes, these children "act out" because they can't help it - they simply can NOT bend to the rules society imposes on them, so they don't. And then we punish them for it. Other times, these children eventually learn that their voice doesn't count, that they are wrong or don't matter or that they are destined to "be bad" and "fail" and then we wonder it got so bad...

No, we can no longer afford to attempt to breed compliant, complacent children!

A "well behaved" child does not necessarily mean that they are life ready, it just means they have learned that they must be that way - either through fear or shame or because they understood how to play the game. And then there are the rare few who the system works for. But I would argue that even those children, the ones who seem to bloom and flourish perfectly well in our desk-ridden, chalkboard glued, memorizing, test taking, homework piling, pressure pushing society - even those children have SO MUCH MORE untapped potential and possibility for a life of greater balance, kindness to themselves and others, and being true, happy and passionate contributors to society.

Because even that complacent child might grow up to be what appears as most successful on paper - imagine the most "successful" version of their future - but maybe in their heart they were meant to be a street artist who empowered thousands through their message and art instead of a lawyer that fought for big pharma. I am being purposefully maudlin in my example to make a point here:

That play in childhood, play in learning, play in growth and development MATTERS.

Here are some examples of how what might appear as simple play can actually support a plethora of development, growth, insight and learning (hover over the slideshow for captions):

And so next time you are worried that your children are wasting their potential by "just playing" consider what might happen if you choose to get CURIOUS about your children's play instead.

Some things you can ask:

🌟What TYPE of play are your children currently partaking in?

🌟What play opportunities do your children RETURN to again and again?

🌟What SKILLS might their play support?

To help you focus in on the potential, you might also consider:

🌟 Are they AMAZING builders? 🌟Do they LOVE to squish mud between their fingers? 🌟Are they always SINGING? 🌟Does the sight of a FLOWER awe them?

What I am asking us to reflect upon is:

WHO are our children right NOW?

(instead of what we want them to accomplish or become)

👉🏼👉🏼👉🏼 There is another way of approaching this whole learning and growth thing: and it begins with redefining the word "successful" and shifting it into "CONTRIBUTOR TO SOCIETY"

Once we do that, then maybe the wonderful parents out there who are simply trying to do their very best to nurture their sweet children who they love so much, maybe then we will all be able to start focusing on what matters: