Over the past fifteen years as a Childminder, I’ve had the opportunity to observe different age groups of children, all playing together. At the beginning of my career, I felt the need to structure and plan activities and to keep them all busily occupied.
Now, experience has shown me that children require as little adult intervention as possible, and more free choice and opportunities for spontaneous play.
This is when they have real fun and enjoy each other’s company, and when you hear real laughter and joy.
When we interfere or try to entertain them constantly, they don’t learn how to amuse themselves, and inevitably get bored when left to their own devices. This can lead to negative or positive attention seeking behaviours.
Our children crave our time and attention and delight in any we offer. They look to us for acceptance that they are doing it the right way. But when it comes to play, there is no right or wrong way, so we can encourage them to do it their way.
Even if they are technically wrong, we can allow them to think for themselves and show them that we don’t mind. If they colour the grass purple when drawing a picture, then that’s okay, it’s their picture, we can approve of it exactly as they want it to be. The grass doesn’t have to be greener!
There’s a time and a place for formal learning and fact finding and a time and a place for freedom, love, and acceptance. Our children won’t grow up believing the grass is purple, because we haven’t corrected them or criticised their picture when they were three years old. They’ll soon learn its green by themselves, if given the opportunity to play outside. But they will grow up to feel creative, confident and with a healthy level of self-esteem, when we give them the freedom to express themselves in way’s we don’t think are correct.