'A child loves his play, not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard.'
Benjamin Spock (Pediatrician)
I have put together what I have learned about play... or had to re-learn! Our girls are still pretty small so this post is about the early years of play.
Isn't play always healthy? You might ask yourself and I guess the answer is yes. The definition of play is: To engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose. l think when play becomes less healthy is, if we forget its true meaning. Play should not be about learning (although I think it is where they do most of their learning) it should be about enjoyment and recreation only.
I try not to fill my girls' days with swimming lessons, dance classes, riding lessons and play dates. I guess I do not consider these things as true 'play'. To me 'play' is when they drift off into their own little worlds, where they role play, create, work things out, discover, ponder over things... sometimes alone, sometimes together. These moments or sometimes hours I do not disrupt and I never get involved. I stay in the background or even disappear altogether and get on with my own things. Professionals call it FREE PLAY and it is considered the healthiest form of play.
Out in nature I enjoy watching them the most. Nature gives a lot of room for play. This is also when they hardly fight and come up with the most creative ideas. Sadly not everyday can be a nature day so indoors we try to go for an environment where there is still room for creativity. Below are some of the toys the girls have at home.
Truths I found about toys and play:
Toys do not need to be expensive. Small children especially are often happier with a handmade doll, stuff found in nature, at flea-markets or hand-me-downs. I still have most of my soft toy collection which they enjoy much more than anything we have bought.
With toys I definitely found - less is more. We buy less toys but better quality ones or save up for bigger things like a trampoline, bikes, a playhouse or art materials. (Gosh art material can be expensive!)
This writing by Walt Whitman seems to fit:
I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.
There was a child went forth everyday,
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became.
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.
Toys I like the most leave room for imagination and could be basically anything or become anything the child's imagination holds. Something as simple as a nutshell can be a little boat, a feeding tray for their animals, a bed for a fairy. Things they have found or made are always treasured a little bit more - like they hold another memory.
I consider healthy toys things that feel exactly like what they actually are - a stone is cold and heavy. A plastic stone is warm and light - is it still a stone? I often get wooden toys because they have a nice touch, they feel warm and also have a good natural scent. Something that gets lost with plastic or even a bad smell gets added. I have to exclude Lego, Lego is brilliant - especially on a rainy day.
Our girls visit a Waldorf Kindergarten. I am always in awe of the creative and free play they encourage. Waldorf toys are traditionally handmade, if you are not so much into making things, Etsy offers a wonderful selection.
We installed a blackboard in the garden. Just a simple piece of plywood covered in blackboard paint. Hours of drawing fun in the fresh air.
Here are some inspirations and toys I find encourage healthy play:
Kapla - a very simple construction toy. I still find myself playing with it when the kids are already done.
You can find the wooden rainbow from the picture above at Grimm's. It's pretty impressive what different shapes and sculptures kids make out of them.
Stockmar wax crayon blocks are great and the kids have to draw in a more fluid way with them.
(These toys are all toxin and lead free)
I leave you with yet another quote. I hope my girls will grow up like this, it's just so perfectly put into words.
“She is free in her wildness, she is a wanderess, a drop of free water. She knows nothing of borders and cares nothing for rules or customs. 'Time' for her isn’t something to fight against. Her life flows clean, with passion, like fresh water.”
Happy playing :)