I may have pointed out before that we have spectacular grandchildren! Other than the hard-to-miss cuteness, I’ve noticed something else going on that not only encourages me, but reflects well on their parents. I’m talking about self-generated, imaginative play, and I can’t stress enough how critically important such play is if we want to see healthy, balanced development in the next generation.
The car photograph is just an example. It started with, “Grandaddy, can we pretend-drive your car?” Then – after I made sure the keys were in my pocket – they climbed in. David, the five-year-old, made sure they both had their seat-belts securely fastened, then they “drove down the road” together, using turn signals, checking mirrors, and “watching for the policeman.”
Last week, staying at our home, I didn’t want to use the television as a distraction while I was working around the house. But I needn’t have worried, the children designed an elaborate game from scratch, using a wooden train and a few other found materials. Off and on, with breaks for snacks, errands, etc., they worked and reworked the scenario dozens of times over several hours.
LET CHILDREN BE KIDS!
We live in a world where children tend to be over-scheduled, too closely supervised, and chronically dependent on video devices to keep them “entertained.” I am concerned that the natural curiosity and deeply rooted creativity that children are born with can be scheduled, supervised, and programmed out of existence.
I believe parents, educators, and grandparents would do well to routinely place children in environments where invention is a required element of play.
Don’t misunderstand my point; I’m not criticizing “today’s parents,” or being nostalgic, or idealizing the conditions of my own childhood. But I am pointing to a very real learning and developmental principle: “Play,” and the origins of this quote are attributed to everyone from Montessori to Piaget to C.S. Lewis – “is the serious work of childhood.”
I especially like Fred Rogers’ take on this: “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”
And let Adults be Kids Too!
George Bernard Shaw took the conversation forward, through adulthood and into old age: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old,” he said; “we grow old because we stop playing.”
But what, I wonder, if we never really learned how to play in the first place?
So I am grateful for my grandchildren, and what they are always teaching me. I am deeply thankful for their parents, too – Naomi and Craig – for fostering an atmosphere where creativity, and ingenuity, and invention are routine elements of day-to-day activity.
As for me… I wonder if I have a little time before lunch to get out my Legos?