On the weekend we ventured to Sydney for a family getaway. On the last day we stopped by the playground at Darling Quarter and my three little ones had a blast - climbing, sliding and swinging. As I watched the children play I also watched the adults. There were a variety of people there: those who hovered over their child, almost choreographing their play; those who sat outside the cafe, oblivious to the whereabouts of their child and those who kind of loitered in the middle! I am the loitering type - I like to be present for my children if they need support, but also am aware of their need to just play. As I was loitering at the bottom of the slide I heard some interesting adult comments:
"Wait your turn... now you go next. Okay, now it's your turn"
"Don't go up the slide, its for going down."
I stood and watched as my 6 year old decided to come head first down the slide and may have held my breath for a moment as I saw some older children start to climb up the slide at the same time. But there was absolutely no need. While the adults at the playground were worrying about children "playing the right way" or taking turns etc, the children had it sorted! And it is not just parents - educators are guilty of choreographing children's play, of saying "this is how we use this equipment, this is how we take turns, this is how we engage with others. And, while it is important to support children as they develop both physical and interpersonal skills, if we don't give them the opportunity to actually DO IT, we are essentially saying "we do not trust you to play."
We need to stop choreographing children's play. When a child pushes in front of another as they wait for the swing - give them a chance to work it out. If a child has never had another child push in front of them, they can't understand how it feels and why it isn't okay to do to others. Think about your own childhood - playing in the streets or the bushland with a group of children of varying ages. There were no adults to "sort things out" we just did it. We worked it out via negotiation and "kid rules."
We need to give play back to children... step back, they've got it!
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