Sunday, 21 September 2014

How Play Changed Us

It's hard to explain why an ordinary working mom like me has a blog that's mostly about playful parenting and child learning.  I have no education credentials to speak of, and I'd cringe if somebody called this a how-to-parent blog.

I do this because this is a testimonial to how play has changed our lives.  
Here is the backstory to why I write what I do.

Ladybug Girl was a sensitive little baby.  She would fuss when the room was noisy.  As a toddler, she would cry when people applauded and exclaimed over her.  The Bible scared her and nursery books could make her tear up.  Till today at six, she claps her hands over ears as a defense instinct.

 1 year old
4 years old

When she turned two, I started to wonder how to play with her.  (This is pretty common the more I speak to moms because of my job).  I seriously didn't know how to play with a baby -- I had been an adult for fourteen years!  All I remember is dolls and TV and colouring books.

My early choices were well-meaning, but with hindsight... pretty stupid.

I carefully chose and edited sesame street clips to watch together.  I'm not against screen time, don't get me wrong - she learned the alphabet this way.  It's just that we could have done so much more of other kinds of play.

Believe it or not I bought her these Barbie dolls at two years old (okay fine, really it was ONE year old).
I thought I was so clever, and plunked down money on superhero girls over fairies and princess.
But apparently imagination kicks in best at five, even six, years old!

Weekends were worse - I was bored and restless.  So we'd go out : that was our play.  And when the novelty wore off, I finally googled "how to play" for ideas that I could do on weekends.

After our first volcano, I never looked back. 

I got hooked on the wonder in her face.  Playing stopped being a chore when I was learning through her eyes.  I had forgotten the excitement of experiencing the world as a child, but the memories come rushing back once you start following a child's lead.  So I did.  It was life-changing.

I began to be more present, mind and spirit, in our play - rather than just passing the time.

Messy play was the most fun - absolutely guaranteed to get the look of wonder on her face.  

Mixed flour and baby oil for a sweet-smelling play dough.  The mess is part of the play.

Baking with food colouring eventually led to colour mixing with the extra batter
And inevitably leads to some hands-on delight 
This was just a few months ago after the "volcano" errupted
Learning the colour wheel with coloured water: eventually irresistible to touch

Reading about Montessori and following some awesome blogs led me to discover what that magic was called : sensorial play.  At the first stage of brain development (from 0-6), sensorial learning is the most important to help them understand how the world works.

But the best reason to play in this way I discovered entirely by accident.  My little shy girl blossomed.  She became more confident in herself.  Where before she would fear new experiences and failure and shrink away, after a year of doing sensory play she wouldn't hesitate.

This lets her experience her body and the sensations of movement
Enjoying the view from the top of the "Crazy Bus" ride.  Neither me or my husband enjoy rides like this, but she now does.  At Universal Studios she made the height limit to ride this.  I was more scared than she was.

I'm convinced that sensory play is also the reason she became more expressive and socially confident.
Those who knew her before marvelled at this huge change.  Where before she would be nervous around people, she began to volunteer at kiddie shows and games and enjoy attention from my officemates.

Finally smiling around mama's officemates

Play has changed me too.  Before discovering the world of playful parenting, multiple intelligences and Montessori, I wanted to toughen her up.  Be the classic "happy baby" that everyone expects babies to be.  I honestly thought she would grow out of being sensitive.

Thank the Good Lord he intervened with some mama's grace to listen to my daughter.  Through play time I got to observe her, learn about her and, in time,  know her well.   I fell deeper in love with her gentle spirit and soft heart.  She will always be a sensitive soul.  I'm thankful that as much as play time allows me to be her guide, it lets her be mine.

Seeing the world through her eyes makes me a better mama

I've used play principles for all sorts of parenting situations: our first ER trip trauma, helping her learn math, and dealing with anxiety... I guarantee that whatever your situation is, play will help.

Make time for play and the rewards are worth it.

post signature


  1. What a beautiful post! I feel your love for your daughter pouring out of your words. And yes, play is more than just play. It opens the mind, heart, and soul.

    1. Agree to that - in order, too! Thanks, Mariel!

  2. I play with my children but frankly not so much with the same intention as encouraging them to learn. By reading your post, I realized that we could tweak our playtime to also incorporate more learning. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. I think you got it right the first time around. Play is the priority, and the learning follows because the interest is there. Too often if I get caught up in being a "teacher", it stops being fun for both of us :/ Thanks, Dette!

  3. My creativity is challenged. Play is something I need rediscover. Thank you for sharing!

    1. I am sure the Right Brained mom's creativity will be super useful there. Happy playing!:)

  4. Thank you for sharing! :)

    I have always played with my daughter and she really learns through play. However when we moved out of our apartment and transferred to my mom's house (first week of September), I have forgotten the need for her to play. I was wondering and quite disappointed (until last night) why she wouldn't read her books or read with me (which she was very fond of doing before). As I read your post I realized I have neglected one of the things she loves to do most and that is play, "sensorial" play at that. Will definitely play with her today! :)

    Once again, thank you for sharing! Blessings to you and your family.

    1. Hi Joy, thanks for wandering over. What a powerful realization that was - your daughter is lucky you're so in-tune with her. For 0-6 year olds, sensorial play is THE most important kind of play pala. And playing with you will be the best bonus for her ever! Happy reconnecting!:)

  5. What a journey! And I love how you are able to pour out a lot of energy into creating and setting up play ideas - I try sometimes, but certainly not to the same extent and frequency!

    So if I may make a request, or wish, he he - can you do more "throwback" style posts of stuff you used to do at the early toddler stage? My twins are 21 months so a lot of your current activities are quite daunting even to me, he he. But I'm glad I'm getting ideas for that age as early as now, thanks!

    1. Hi Rina, I love your suggestion! Sadly I only discovered play and montessori when my daughter turned two and only started blogging when she turned four so I don't have much pictures. I wish I could pass on my newly-found knowledge about play with baby and toddlers by osmosis, haha. I saw your oobleck post (not to mention your super adorable twin girls) and that's the idea already!

      Sensory play is the most important for them at that stage. The more you stimulate sight, touch, taste, smell, body movement, hearing, etc. the more it helps children feel confident and be able to begin making sense of the world. And I'm super with you -- I tried being "career" with pinterest ideas but most were sooooo complicated for a working mom to do!! Thankfully simple messy play exploration seems to cover a lot of these senses don't you think? Haha!

      I'll still try to share how activities can be for 2 year olds, too! Super thanks for that feedback!!:)


Feel free to comment, with good intent!