So, it is Wednesday morning in our home, our little lady has trotted up the road to school, and it’s me and the boys home alone. Usually, after I have sorted the washing (I swear there are people living in secret with us, the amount of socks that come out!), and done some housework, it is time for a little more formal literacy and maths with the mini men. However, by the time I got to them this morning, there was a mountain climbing, chicken healing, spider man requiring mission in full swing! It took me all of 1 second to decide to ditch the workbooks in favour of this imaginative play game. Why? Am I being lazy? Am I shirking my responsibilities to keep up their English language skills living in a foreign country? No, I am letting them learn the best way possible, their own way. But as an added bonus, what mummy won’t take the opportunity of calm to get things done ;-). One of the many reasons we uprooted the family to Sweden was to embrace and be part of their culture of letting children be children, and the importance they place on child’s play.
There was a great deal of planning involved in this game, which in itself is an important life skill to learn. Outfits had to be chosen, and today it was necessary to be wearing football shin pads and ballet shoes. Food and drink were required, so paper sausages and drinks bottles made from paper and old bottle tops. Torches (push up ice cream bases), light sabres (toy screwdriver handles), rope (old string), and homemade telephones were all packed, and they headed off into the wilderness (our upstairs!). The baddies were in our room, whilst the nursing and feeding of a poorly chicken took place in the spare room. Extra superhero powers were required in the form of spider man. For three hours this game was played, changed, and progressed, and the whole time they were busy learning some very important things.
So what has this session, like any other of imaginative play, been teaching them apart from planning? It has taught them a variety of skills, the first one today being dressing themselves (not necessarily to my taste!!). They have sorted their own outfits as were required, they have done their own undressing and dressing to accommodate the story line. They have made hundreds of decisions throughout the morning, developing their decision making skills, but this has also had a big impact on increasing their social skills at the same time. There has been A LOT of co-operation (trust me we are not the perfect family, they hit and kick each other out of frustration at times too and scream at each other, but today they learnt the benefit of staying calm and using words to communicate so the game was enjoyed…it was just a really good morning for them today). There has also been sharing, negotiations that would be fit for running a country, taking turns, and a lot of self restraint from the pair of them. Very often they can be quick to lose their self restraint, and it’s hard being a twin in each others pockets all the time, but when they can hold it, and see the benefits, it reinforces that it is a beneficial way to behave. Imaginative play, by nature, is role play or acting out some sort of experience. This is the way little people are able to make sense of the big bad world around them.
During imaginative play there is a lot of emotional development occurring, as it is a very safe place and time to express their feelings, and try and sort them out. Their thoughts, feelings, wishes, and fears can all be processed through their play. As was shown in today’s game, they can learn about empathy and caring too. Their self esteem can increase because they can be ANYTHING they want to be, there is nothing holding them back, anything goes 🙂 I might have given the formal literacy a miss but they have been busy developing their communication skills, both verbally and non verbally. During imaginative play they can experiment and mistakes don’t matter, but are there to still be learnt from.
So next time you feel guilty about leaving your little ones to play while you sneak a peaceful 5 minutes, or more realistically work through your “to do” list, DON’T! They don’t need our grown up interaction all of the time. Their own imaginative play without us is just as important to their development. Sometimes, their games may require you as part of them, but be careful you leave all your grown up ideas at the door to the room…this is their game and it is played their way!