Archive for category Play

Kids Thrive In The Now

Kids are masters at being in the now. Ask them what you may have said earlier in the day, or what project they did at school, and most likely they will look at you like you’re an alien from another galaxy. Kids thrive on dashing around, running there, finessing themselves into nooks and crannies in any given space, constantly firing off inquiries, transforming into animals, pretending their dogs, cats, bunnies, or babies, finding creative ways to meld material together into an art project, connecting Legos to make a space ship, etc. You get the picture…whatever stirs their imagination or will ignite their curiosity, and they’re off to the races. They interact and learn about the world around them through the Now.

And as a parent you may ask your five, six, or seven year old, what they did in school today – and mostly likely you may hear: “I don’t know.” Not because they may be avoiding or dancing around the question, but mainly because their so focused on what is happening in the moment. As adults we need to reassure we are most specific with our own inquiries. For example we can ask them if they drew a picture or worked on a puzzle with a friend at school, as this may provoke a more comprehensible response, while fostering closeness in relating.

Layers on layers of continuum experience start to build a foundation of learning in these early years, and the majority of it occurs in the presence of play. Their minds are deeply entrenched in the moment of “doing.” The act of “doing” an activity is the driving force of optimal conditions for learning. When this spontaneity and gaiety to find out what the next experiment, project, or experience is being unveiled around each corner of their busy lives, will life then provide ripe lessons and discovery. As patient adults, willing to take the time out to stop and listen, we can learn much from kids attentive presence in, the Now.

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Primordial Play

The more I spend my days around five, six, and seven, year olds, the more I take notice of their great perception for “primordial play.” All of those impulses, idiosyncrasies, and randomness that constitute their play are a much deeper anthropology connection then just behavior we can easily be chalked up as just imaginative play, or status quo – “aggressive play.” When we stop to consider all these childlike fantasies that become the core of their ancient stories that allow their play to unfold, one may find the primordial side to play that very well has origin and shape throughout the span of history, as well… two legged beings.

The sticks and stones kids use to construct bows, arrows, spears, and daggers, on these ancient subtenant tools that go back thousands of years, become important instruments of play. And the gathering of loose straw, collecting balls in the play yard as eggs, or picking and collecting herbs to heal wombs, the erecting of forts, and collecting of flowers – and finding ways to organize the hunt and gather, become the roots of play. There interests lie in organizing, forming whimsical social gathering, all revolving around human nature. John Dewey makes implications to this primordial connection among young people in The School and Society:

Many anthropologists have told us there are certain identities in the child interests with those of primitive life. There is a sort of natural reoccurrence of the child mind to the typical activities of primitive people peoples; witness the hut which they boy likes to build in the yard, playing hunt, with bows, arrows, spears, and so on. Again the questions come: What are we to do with this interest – are we to ignore it, or just excite and draw it out? Or shall we get a hold of it and direct it to something ahead, something better?

Dewey proposes important questions for educators and parents involved in the lives of kids. This degree of play does hold meaning and value to the ones acting out these primordial like roles and it would be a crime to squelch it or make it a forbidden act, because lives inquiries, questions, and answers provide a way for kids to demystify the complexities around life.

This behavior is definitely not easy to simply ignore because the intensity may cause certain conflict to arise. Or the opposite cause and effect from primordial play is that relationships grow stronger, new understandings can be met, physical challenges can be overcome, and abstract concepts of about life in general have an area for experimentation and figuring out. Most of this type of play can clearly be observed outside in more natural setting, however it normally goes on unfettered is there is a place for it. And this sort of play does not call for a play yard in a forest as a strip of rural or urban cultivated patch of green can provide the grounds for invoking this degree of play. But over all kids willingly can transform any environment as long as patches of plants and grass exist for them to stop, sniff, dig, pick, or other wise interact with their environment, no matter the size of the outdoor space. But surely, the more space, the merrier and greater the adventures.

Tapping into kids primordial play and where those interests lie provide a wondrous position for steering further exploration into academics. For example if they are imbued with the power dynamic of winning or my be quite partial to the “battle scene” as it even sub-surfaces through their drawings, then let these primordial fascinations fuel their interests into reading and writing. If they draw a battle scene in their journal or onto a piece of people then invite them to write the word “battle” or other words that captures their interest in that present moment, while phonetically sounding out the “b” sound in “battle.” Just as if another kid may be drawing bunnies or fairies, you would also encourage them to write titles or stories to compliment their images. If we can ease our tendencies towards projecting, prejudging, or stereotyping kids we can replace those initial anxieties with further opportunities for connecting with young people and assisting them with providing the means to thrive. Setting up policies at home or at school that forbid primordial play that stems from a place of “battle or hunt,” only demonizes the play and entices kids to wait until adults backs may be turned before reaching for a stick or speaking in battle tongues to their buddy.

Kids have innate curiosities for the biological world and all the living components that make it up. Often their vivid imaginations turn them into fierce cats, a coyote on the run, a baby wolf puppy, a hunter, or a gatherer of plants. They want to explore the school around them, find critters in the backyard, turn over rocks, pick food from the garden, care for animals, read and look at books featuring animals, go to the zoo, visit the beach, play at the park, etc. As if innately they have a deep connection with the outside world that goes back as far as humans can rightfully project their interconnection and reliance on the natural world.

There is this inner wildness among kids this age in particular that is worthy of being preserved and recognized as an innately valuable part of identifying and experimenting with their immediate environment.

Indigenous tribes internationally have a long history of being closely related or connected with the natural world. Young people shape and construct their relationship to the natural world through the act of scaling hills, treading through mud, standing in puddles, digging in the earth, gathering stones and plants, picking plants, finding insects, pretending to be an eagle, jumping off of stumps, painting faces with clay or mud, etc. Intuitively free of any adult dispositions or anxieties they simple dive right into life.
Take for example the our connection to the horse, “a gift from the great spirit,” by native Americans, carrying us great distances, used for transportation, in celebration, and for protection. For some youth the animistic sentient symbolism of the horse will ensnare their imagination, quite possible for years to come. And as the adults take notice of this, reassuring that they find all the materials or opportunities to support this interest, either by promoting horseback riding, visiting horse farms, reading about horses, sewing a horse from fabric, drawing horses, learning to spell or write a story about horses, etc. – much can blossom from a primordial connection. The child will begin to think about how the horse has helped groups of people us to fight battles, find and hunt food, and transport families over vast distances while carrying all their belongings, and a uncover a whole way of life before the rise of the automobile.

Often words pronounced or written identifying or describing animals, besides “mom, dad, ma, or pa” celebrate those intrinsic connections to animals. Animals and people tend to be also often some of the fist pictures kids draw. Many books pertaining to young are full of illustrations depicting animals or revolve around animal characters, because kids have always been able to identify closely to animalistic behaviors. Corporations such as Disney and others honed in on pitching the market at kids cashed in on this innate connection young people have to the animal world. The iconic mouse the brought millions across the country to meet Mickey and Minnie and the rest of the world of fantasia is just one pervasive example of how a young persons inner primordial fascination for the world can be exploited for profitable gain.

Not many generations ago people relied on the domestication of animals for sustenance. Today, millions of families have pets. Kids who have the responsibility of caring for pets in the home tend be nurturing and quite connected to the animal that lives in their home, often mimicking the behaviors. During play kids gravitate towards imaginative role-play where they take on animal characteristics. There is the infamous lion, the game of cat and dog, playing puppies or being coyote cubs, the dramatizing of animals is a well regarded mode of play where much is learned of the natural world and much is gained socially as they learn how to live cooperatively. The more kids gravitate towards primordial play – the more we can embrace, provide the space for it, and the resources to support their explorations of the fascination of the world around us. After all this way of play as a youngster, has been going on for countless generations.

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Give Kids Rope

Here’s a social experiment for teachers who want to expand on the idea of an autonomous child centered environment. Give them about 30 feet of rope, and get out of their way. Be careful not to interject any anxieties, however the obvious inadvertent neck rope around the neck is never fair game. Observe with great detail their interactions, while maintaining vigilance for safety, however don’t impede on newfound experiments, including those pesky verbal disagreements. Sure you may initially hear the bouts of disputes, but do you expect when ten or more kids have their hands on a rope and they all have a different idea, as to what to do with it. Remember to have faith in the fact that allotted the time and space, they’ll figure it out.

Not, that I completely opposed to having adults facilitate a rope extravaganza, or set up a obstacle course with an ideal of forming a line, taking turns, and “spotting,” each other, but there is a sense of authenticity and sheer reliance and creativity that occurs when their up to their own devices. There is also a sort of a benign experience in allowing kids to craft their own structure, as they are more compelled to rely on each other’s peer cooperation. A tug of war game may ensue, and yelling back and forth may endure, but stay patient dear adult as the plan of action uncoils. “Get off the rope, get off the rope…I’m trying to tie it.” “Stop grabbing onto the rope!” “It needs to be tighter!” “Yeah…let’s maker it tighter.” These are just a few of the loud burst of adrenaline your hear before those really interested stick to the task at hand while others may slowly begin to disperse, away from the seemingly chaos – before order.

And then the rope begins to get snugger; the knots begin to get tied, as they settle on the suitable height or angle. Or the rope over a pull up bar, attached to a bucket or a stool, becomes a sort of pulley system. And then the real fun begins, after the tension has settled and they are invoked in physics lesson at hand. All physics projects need testing, measuring, and further experimenting, as they’ll find ways to tangle their whole bodies around the subject at hand. The upper torso will lunge towards rope stretched between to anchoring points, to find away to balance. Feet and legs will curl around to suspend themselves in mid air. And then as an adult you’ll ponder how their made up knots has supported the weight of ten frantic kids – wondering if a knot will slip out at any given moment and send them crashing down. But then you’ll notice there only about four feet at max above the playground. And yet the joy on their faces and their non- stop gaiety, will lead you to believe that they’ve discovered a way to fly. Or that no ride at an amusement park could compare to this cooperative physics thrill.

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