Friday, September 25, 2009

The Freedom to Play

I took Kestan to a new play group the other day. He is definitely an observer and needs his time to study and assess new surroundings before he dives right in. For the first 10 minutes, or so, he squeezed my index finger tightly as he slowly walked me around to each station. Once he started to feel more comfortable, he let go of his grip and joined the other children playing puzzles, jumping on mats and stacking blocks. Eventually, he was just one of the kids laughing and running and yelling "mommy...more!"

One of the stations included buckets full of toys and cups for scooping and sifting through rice. I loved watching how involved he got as he explored and experimented. He felt the rice in his hands. He tried big cups. He tried small cups. He tried to scoop up the little plastic doggies. He tried to see how many doggies he could hold in both hands. He threw the rice in the air. He gave the rice to mommy. He was focused. He problem-solved. He created. He played.

Soon another mommy and her 20-month-old daughter joined us for "play". I was surprised to see how controlling this mother was, especially of a child so young. The child was not allowed to spill any rice out of the bucket. She would reach in for a spoon, try to bring the spoon closer to her so she could touch the rice, and mommy would grab her, both arms around the child, and got very close to her ear. Sternly, she said, "Do not spill the rice. You're not doing it right. Keep the rice in the the bucket, Grace...Keep the rice in the bucket."

I watched as the little girl struggled, not knowing what to do, or how to play. More tentatively, she'd reach in the bucket for the spoon, and every time she spilled some rice, her mom was all over her. Again, Grace reached for the spoon. Slowly, she lifted the spoon of rice. She kept it over the bucket. She seemed somewhat frozen. No smile. No experimenting. No problem-solving. No sensing or feeling or playing. Just sitting there, waiting, looking for approval. She looked up at her mommy. Mommy praised her, "See, now you are doing it RIGHT."

And we wonder why so many of us lose touch with not only our creativity, but with our ability to trust ourselves. And it's no wonder why so many of us have a fear of trying new things, especially creative experiences, for fear that we won't know how to express ourselves and we won't know how to do it "right".

Now, I'm not suggesting that this mother has ruined her daughters creative future. But I do see how judgements, restrictions and fear, that we experience as a child, can play a significant part in how we view ourselves and the world around us when we are adults. Gratefully, we are resilient beings!

I believe the freedom to play is SO important and as I become more aware of how I choose to nurture my child's own creativity, I can't help but use these moments as opportunities to look at my own life. How do I nurture my creativity? When do I let my fear of not "doing it right" get in the way of trying something new? Do I give myself the freedom to simply play, for the sake of playing?

So today, I observe my judgements around the issues of "right" & "wrong". And I give myself full freedom to plaaaaaaaaaaaaay.

Your Personal Reflection: What early memories do you have, where an adult may have stifled your creativity? How do these experiences have an effect on your life today? Do you feel creative? What's one creative thing you've been wanting to try, but haven't because you're a little (or a lot!) scared? What's one thing you can do, today, to let yourself play?

1 comment:

  1. I've been doing "creative" things all my life, but really started learning how tight my boundaries were when my first daughter started Playcentre (a wondefulr free play environment for under 6 year olds, only in NZ!) and someone put a book called "Magic Places" in my hand. It is about creativity and how to nurture it in children. That book made me realise how I was taught to do things "right", to copy and to look for approval. I was not fostered to experience and experiment. All my adult life was spent trying to painfully unlearn these restricting rules. I had come a good way already, but playing with my children has taught me more than anything else about creativity and trusting your instincts! Dare to say I feel pretty free now! My daughters are 3,5 and 11 months old now, and together we keep exploring the world. And sometimes mum gets some time to play with fibre all on her own...


Thanks for sharing!