Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Not too crafty... Thoughts on Play

My three year old is just not all that into doing art projects. I can get out all kinds of interesting materials like new feathers and such, and her interest in it is still short-lived. I think part of this is her personality, because she always wants me to do things with her. This project I got from - sticking various collage items onto clear contact paper - only entertained her for about six minutes.

I am trying to get her to create her own fun more often in an effort to encourage more creative, independent play... Carrie wrote about this recently at The Parenting Passageway. Getting out craft supplies doesn't always help, but she really enjoys creative play with stuffed anmals and dolls. She is maturing to the point that she can play on her own with these kinds of toys for longer periods. I like to play games and do activities that have an end or a set goal or plan: reading a book, playing a board game, taking a walk. And I also love involving Caroline is my daily tasks, teaching her about the work that must be done to make our home run smoothly: sorting laundry, cooking meals, washing the sinks, doing the dishes. Even though she doesn't really "help" as in do some of the work for me (it often takes longer when she works with me, actually!), it is helping foster a sense of responsibility and usefulness in her. I think children like to see that they are needed in these ways and that their contributions are appreciated.

Since she was my first child, I often just sat there on the floor with her, trying to play with her for much of the day. Now, I'm not saying that has no merit - of course, it is important to spend some time in play. But if it becomes the center of our life, then what does that do for us? I need to take the lead in the family since I am the adult and they are the children - if we need to do laundry, then we need to do it. If we need groceries, then we need to go to the supermarket. We have to accomplish certain things, and I am working to involve my children more in the daily details of life. Cecilia just kind of goes with the flow... she is always either playing at my feet while I work or riding on my hip or back, learning about the running of a household with a close-up view. And she's getting old enough to play with Caroline bit, too... last night, while I finished up the dinner preparations, the two of them were in the living room, with Caroline rolling a roll of tape along the floor for Cecilia to chase (Caroline, in her typical interesting way, called this game "Juggling Triumphantly"). Both were laughing and enjoying themselves. Caroline felt useful by helping me keep Cecilia happy and she was having fun to boot. I made sure to tell her how much I appreciated her help with the baby (not that it's always this walk-in-the-park kind of situation... usually, Caroline is knocking Cecilia over and taking toys from her in an effort to show her how to use them "correctly").

One thing that worked really well for us yesterday was when Caroline set up a party of stuffed animals... the fun was more in the process of gathering the animals, dressing them in fancy clothes (I was asked to assist with this a bit ;), and setting up the food and dishes. After I finished what I was doing, I attended the party (it was Ensa's third birthday party), and we played together briefly. She got to enjoy engaging in her own imaginative play as well as interacting with me. It was meaningful for both of us!

So, I am trying to foster a love of imaginative play, one I had as a child. I loved spending hours playing with stuffed animals, toy horses: building elaborate towns for them. My younger brothers were my greatest playmates. In this age of the "overscheduled child" - having numerous outside activities and commitments - I hope to helpmy children learn to enjoy "just being" and being motivated to make their own fun in the areas they enjoy. So, she may not care for art projects, but she is beginning to learn to follow her own interests.

1 comment:

mel said...

That's neat, and Cecilia will be totally different I'm sure. :) Maria loved crafts and such from a very early age and would do them endlessly. Still does. Jack could care less about such things, but he will play for an hour with his trains and blocks and toy animals, setting up different scenes and pretending that way.