Sunday, September 21, 2008

Serious about Play

Someone linked me up to this NPR article on creative, loose, make-believe play being the key to kids' developing executive function (self-regulation, which leads to success in school, life, social interactions, and world peace, apparently). I also liked this one I clicked through to, overall; some of the things the Tools of the Mind school is doing seem like even FURTHER controlling of kids, but I suppose its for kids who are already coming from problematic experiences, and there were some neat bits of info further down in the mish mash of content.

Sophie's toys have gotten a bit out of control, I must say. We were SO set on keeping them to a reasonable amount, but as she grew we added more toddler toys, versus more babyish toys, but she likes to get out the baby toys and use them in new ways a lot, and then I got a ton of stuffed animals from the closet back at my parents' house, a bunch of my old toys.... and suddenly we had toy overload. But we managed to organize it into categories, and hide some away, and now Sophie knows where to find the dolls, the stuffed animals, , the balls, the kitchen toys (mostly just kitchen stuff she's appropriated), the musical instruments (still percussion-heavy; we would love to find a trumpet of some kind she could play, or a safe string...), in the same way she knows where to get a clean napkin or bib, and where to put the newly folded laundry, and where to put the dirty ones. So I think that's good, that she has a good amount of space in this modern household where she can be in charge and help a bit. I also love how she mixes up her toys, and how certain stuffed animals have different personalities (altho most love to be fed by her tiny baby spoons, and be comforted, after she drops them, with hugs and kisses and rockarockarocka).

I have been meaning to read up on play for a while, which seems silly but this article, which I've seen before, reminded me that play has, like so much of our lives, been taken over and changed by corporations, and we sometimes need reminders about our traditional ways. I liked how the article made the distinction about how play is about play, and companies made it about things, and how that changed things. I know, from my limited reading, that trademarked toys (like from TV shows and movies) and many of the electronic "educational" toys tend to limit play; they can be used in one way, whereas "good" play lets kids be in control and make different decisions and their imaginations. Kids tend to just act out the TV show or do the one thing the toy is made for (and then often lose interest in it). Then there's the ways the majority of toys made today are bad for us... noisy toys that are programmed in volume to catch parents' attention in busy toy aisles, but are damaging for a baby's ears... toys made with chemicals that can cause cancer and infertility, even some that now are made to look "natural" (but are full of formaldehyde in the particle board or who knows what in the paint from China or petroleum in the "cloth")... the point is, I'm more okay with Sophie having a lot of toys that are being reused and therefore aren't demanding more resources from the planet, in manufacture and transport as well as materials, and a few carefully selected toys that will enhance her imagination-fueled play. I guess swathes of fabric (be it fancy playsilks or not), some big pillows and chairs, some paper tubes.... all these can be the makings of amazing make-believe.

I need recs for books on all this. I don't know if we're really a Waldorfy family, although I like a lot of what I've picked up casually from hanging out with families who are. Maybe we can learn some things and take what we like from those resources.... but as a teacher I really like this kind of research-based reminder of what play is all about.


Melissa said...

Books on play and playthings... Hmm... Have you read Amanda Soule's The Creative Family? It's about creating as a family (rather than play specifically), but her suggestions are definitely informed by a Waldorf sensibility. And it's a fun book. :)

Leanne said...

That sounds right up our alley... thanks!