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Jun 26 2017

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You are not your kids’ personal entertainment system: Give them play

Give your children play

You are not your kids’ personal entertainment system

“I’m bored,” my 5-year-old daughter proclaimed to me, as if she wanted me to solve her dilemma.

“Who’s responsible for that?” I asked. My curiosity peaked.

“Mine,” she replied, after a thoughtful pause, and went off to find something to do. I stood a little surprised at her resolve.

Three reasons for my surprise

  1. I didn’t know she had internalized her own sense of responsibility for play. If I had put myself in the role of her personal entertainment specialist, she’d see me as the source. At this age, she had a well-developed sense of play. That conversation crystallized the truth for both of us: her play belonged to her.
  2. I didn’t know the conversation could be over so quickly. She found the power of self-directed play. She didn’t dawdle but excitedly dashed off to discover what she wanted to do.
  3. She didn’t need me. I thought that since she came to me, I would be used in her next step toward play. In this scenario, I wasn’t necessary.

“You fix it”

My kids have hurled “I’m bored” at me with a tone of “you fix it.” Bored is not a forbidden word in our house, but it’s not a word I own responsibility to solve.

Boredom becomes a euphemism for, “I don’t get to do what I want to do” or “I don’t want to do my chores.” Sometimes though, it’s an outcry for someone else to become the entertainer while the child becomes a passive participant in the “work” of play. I caution you: Don’t own it.

Children are responsible to lead their own play. Play that is self-directed is more enjoyed, more intense, and sustained longer. Your part is not entirely passive. You have the role of facilitating. If you are a good facilitator of play, an I’m-bored child will magically transform into an engaged-in-play child.

What are the 3 tools for facilitating play?

If you’re wondering how you can grow as a play facilitator, learn about these three essential tools.

Want to learn more about play?

  1. Take time to read about time, space, and materials—three essentials for play.
  2. Read a good book about play like Balanced and Barefoot (affiliate link) or an article like Scientists Say Child’s Play Helps Build A Better Brain.
  3. Watch this TedTalk by Stuart Brown: Play is More Than Just Fun
  4. Check out websites dedicated to understanding the power of play like The US Play Coalition.
  5.  Write your questions about boredom and facilitating play in the comments section. (Let the discussion continue.)

Don’t give in, give them play

When your children are looking at you as their personal entertainment system, don’t run to Pinterest to find out all about the cool adventures you can create for them. Instead, help them own their play. Be their biggest play advocate. Give them time, space, and materials. If they’ve forgotten how to play, they’ll grow into it. Play is a gift that gives them lifelong skills. Give them play.

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1 comment

  1. Jjanet

    Way to go mum.

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