Sunday, March 12, 2017

Let Them Play

At Uni this semester I am studying a play subject in my education degree. It has been so thought provoking and created a lot of self reflection on myself as a Mother and how my husband and I enable our two children to play (key perk of being a studying Mum), so much so that I wanted to share some perspective with you so that you can also reflect.

Let me begin by sharing with you a scenario to set the scene. Chapter one, page two from my textbook "Play in the Early Years" by Marilyn Fleer:
Memories of being 6; I grew up on a farm. We had at our disposal in the paddock large fallen-down trees, which had been pushed together. These fallen trees, with their rough bark, broken branches and exposed roots, became our ships. Groups of boys and girls would congregate around these trees, naming their ships and collectively creating their adventures. These were genderless ships. We would jump from ship to ship, totally engrossed in our latest imaginary adventure. We imagined violent seas, storms encroaching upon our fleet, stealing each other's ships, being pirates and saving people from drowning. We created our imaginary world of ships. We controlled our imaginary world. We felt powerful. (Ella, 15 years).
Who can relate to that? Who had something along the lines of that kind of play experience as a child?

What play memories do you have from your childhood? This is important. Stop reading and think back to one that might be significant to you.

I was laying in bed with my husband when I was reading this and after my own quiet contemplation I asked my husband this same question. Between us we both mentioned often being unsupervised and being able to be outside until dark, involving nature such as climbing trees, playing with rocks, dirt and long grass and often involved (not really feeling like it at the time, but looking back) risks. My main memory was climbing the giant trees in the park we lived across the road from. When I think back I can still imagine the smell of the bark and the leaves.

When I think forward to my children, I am not sure I would allow them to play in the pile of old trees like in the textbook excerpt; even though I would have been allowed to as a child. I would be frightened my kids would be bitten by a snake. I am sure that my parents would have had this same fear and feelings of protection for me as a child but we were still allowed to do these things. Hell, my sister and I were even allowed to run through the cane fields (snake heaven!) in our neighbourhood unsupervised. 

Why do we stop our kids from engaging in this risky play today? I am genuinely curious, what changed through the generation? 

I am sure if we asked our parents the same question above "What significant play memory do you have from your childhood?" and even further our grandparents, the restrictions set by their parents would be less and less.

My husband who will probably kill me for mentioning this recently tried to stop the kids from playing under the bed simply because he didn't want them to hit their heads. I like to think I am not quite as over-protective as my husband but I do have to stop and question myself at times, why can't they do this, or why can't they do that? From there sometimes I will allow their requests but not without supervision just to be safe. I think we are taking this protective thing too far and we need to let them play. We are stopping them from being kids and playing. What will their play memories look like when they are adults and thinking back?

I don't have a whole lot of free time to continue this post with fear of falling behind (the joys of being a studying mum) but I felt passionately compelled to share these few words with you for two purposes.

1. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE for you to share with me your significant play memory from your childhood on my Facebook Page (click the link) The Mumma Next Door bonus points if you are from a different generation from myself (Mum, Nan I am looking at you) .

2. Secondly, I just want us all to have a think and reflect on our parenting and consider loosening the reigns a little and let the kids play, allow them to learn to watch their head under the bed, to strengthen those muscles, find their balance and smell the smells, and view the world from above that only climbing trees provides.

Let me know what you think.