It’s December. Time of the month-long vacation at the end of the school year. For the past few years, it was also the time when C would be busy attending holiday enrichment classes – art, drama, music, and so on. I would do research to find the “best” programs, in order not to “waste” any time that could otherwise be put to better use.
Time for play
“Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.” -Friedrich Froebel (Father of modern kindergarten)
This year, I did things a little differently. No commercial holiday programs for G and C. Inspired by a parenting book that I’m currently reading, I’ve decided to allow more time for free, unstructured play. By free play, it means that there are no parents sitting beside the child to “guide” or “direct” the play. The child is given free rein to explore and do whatever they wish, with a simple guideline: no damage to people or property. Given the freedom and time, children are then able to engage in real play, where more complex models of interaction and role play take place.
Stepping out of my comfort zone
For some, this could be a natural choice, but not for me. It’s a conscious effort not to interfere when they are playing, not to dictate how play would be carried out, or to interrupt with some comments when an “educational moment” presented itself. When I made the decision late November, I felt hesitant – will it be a total waste of time to let the children play all day (ok, maybe not the whole day, but two to three hours at least) instead of knowing that they had picked up new knowledge like making mosaic art? I was definitely out of my comfort zone here.
A happy result
It’s almost the end of the month, and I’m happy to report that my worst fears were not realised. The kids did not sit around doing nothing the whole day (I think that happens only to adults!). Instead, they found ways to entertain themselves – pretending to be explorers with Dora (complete with a flag and treasure map), learning acrobatics, or simply running around and having fun! C took on the big sister role naturally, teaching G and modifying the play when he was not able to catch up. G tagged along and also initiated games. I sat and watched from a distance – there was absolutely no necessity for me to step in (much as I wanted to!)
Over the course of the month, I noticed a change in the behaviours of both children. Being allowed to play and experiment by themselves gave them more confidence to try new things, and they surprised me with their creativity and their focus during play. In addition, the quality time spent together brought them even closer to each other.
I think I need to step back and relax a little. And let my children play. Will you?