Thursday, 21 November 2013

When Work Really Is A Child's Play

Early on I decided my parenting style would be Playful Parenting so that I wouldn't take myself too seriously.   And then I discovered Montessori when Ladybug Girl turned three.  So both influences merged, and sometimes they contradict each other.

I find Montessori too serious sometimes.  Case in point: "in the life of a child, play is perhaps something of little importance which he undertakes for the lack of something better to do."  This is pretty much a direct contradiction of me believing in the importance of play.

But this weekend I found out what she really meant.  Children want to be useful.

We organised a child-friendly relief goods packing effort at our home for survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.    These kids were barely five years old but were so eager to be in charge of an area.  They stayed the whole three hours without playing, very much engaged in the real work they were doing.  I was amazed.

So this is what Montessori meant after all.  She found out all those decades ago that her students tended to drop the toys in class in favor of participating in practical work because they have a natural preference for real work over make-believe.

In "Playful Parenting" the author uses the word "power" a lot, like Montessori uses "work".  Basic belief is that kids feel powerless in this world of grown-ups.  Once we see their tantrums for what they really are, play becomes the way for kids to feel understood, express feelings and be empowered.

So one uses work and the other uses play.  Hey, I'll use both.

Letting kids label the boxes: work or play?

Or both!
When everything was cleared away and brought outside for pickup, the kids did art.  
Is that work or play?

Or both!

 And then it became unmistakably all about play.

No child can resist a plastic pool and a hose.

I wrote earlier about explaining the lessons from the Million People March to my daughter.  But I found I didn't have to explain much about helping our countrymen.  Compassion - like work and play - is truly universal.

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