Play, Re-Play, Re-Re-Play

I have more to write about the various school systems.  For now, I wanted to put down some thoughts about modern school and parenting.

I’m sure this is obvious to others, but I have discovered that indoor play needs WAY more supervision than outdoor play.  While the great outdoors is rife with dangers, many of them are incremental.  If the branch is making a cracking sound, don’t swing from it.  You only climb as high as you feel comfortable.  There is room outside for each child to explore to his or her own comfort zone and skill set.  You can spend all morning building a fort in the woods or damming a creek on the beach and when you are done, NOTHING needs to be put away.  Nothing is broken or destroyed.  

Inside… well at least in my home, there are a lot of high consequence things.  If I let my kid explore the way he wants to, he might turn on the gas stove, electrocute himself, drown, burn himself, poison himself, destroy countless objects, or hurt himself in a variety of creative ways.  It’s not that I’m a parent who didn’t bother to childproof, but my kid is creative.  I have put away the ‘dangerous’ things, but by no means do I have the creative mind of a three-year-old.

Therefore, when I am indoors with my child, I am often in charge of redirecting and directing his play.  There is a lot of “Let’s play with this!” and “Go jump on the trampoline instead of the couch please.”  This isn’t a bad thing. I love the interactive play we have together.  I love reading him stories, painting, digging in the sandbox on our deck, and just spending time with him. I am not so fond of the shower conundrum (do I let him play alone?), or the challenge when I want to actually cook/clean/do laundry/breathe.  I also find myself changing gears more often than my child would like.

I was thinking about this today while I was driving.  For about 10 minutes while we were walking downtown, T was pretending to sleep in the Tula Toddler Carrier (I had a quick errand on a busy street, so backpack baby it was).  I would tickle his legs and say, “Hey, wake up!”  and he would giggle like mad.  There were variations on the theme, like jostling and jumping as well.  He wanted to keep playing on the drive home, so he would pretend to sleep and then inform me that I should try to wake him up.  Next it was my turn to pretend to be asleep, and the first 10 times or so snoring and then pretending he’d woken me up was funny.  It started to get old pretty quick though.  The drive home is about 30 minutes.  He wanted to play variations on the game the whole way.

I’m not saying that I have Mommy Guilt for telling him I needed to concentrate on driving and couldn’t play right now.  What I am saying is that he was getting something out of running this script over and over again.  Since he was playing it out with an adult (obviously at a different developmental stage), I wanted to move on long before he was ready.

When we play indoors, I want to change up the play more often. Maybe it’s because I need to be more involved and get board with his endless rehashing of the same thing.  I know the value of hearing the same story a million times for literacy and language development, yet it’s tough on the reader.  I want to read his new library book to him over and over again so he can internalize the story, see himself as a reader, develop context for new vocabulary and context… but I also am dying to read a different one of the thousands of books I have available for his listening pleasure!

I am wondering about the link between the kinds of play, and where they play.  It seems like who children play with is pretty important too.

Given that I have an only child, much of our time is spent just the two of us. Of course there are social opportunities, but our core is just us.  Therefore, I want to think more about the link between where the play happens and the type of play as well as the opportunities for replay.

When T and I walked on the trail this morning, I wanted to watch him explore.  I modeled some play, without narrating, like climbing up a steep dirt path.  When T tried it, I narrated what he was doing.  He climbed and slid down.  He tried again.  He climbed and slid down.  He tried again.  He tried something different.  He slid down. I modeled again.  He tried what I modeled.  Finally we made it.

I felt like the play was a lot more collaborative. I was not passive, still making suggestions, narrating, and conversing but I did not need to redirect, shadow, or even participate the same way.  I wasn’t worried about what he was going to do, nor board with doing the same thing over and over again.  It gave him the opportunity to replay to his heart’s content without making me crazy.

I am left with a few questions:

How can we have more opportunities for repetition and replay when engaging in indoor play?

What should replay look like in a school setting?  We are often so eager to move on to the next exciting thing (even without test pressure) as adults, we forget to slow down and let kids really solidify their understanding.

I am left feeling totally sure that as a parent and a teacher, outdoor play time is so important, even if it’s only for our own sanity 🙂

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