By Emma Thomas
Children play, this is what they are born to do and how they learn. But you might be wondering, as parents what is our role in children’s play?
As parents one of our most important jobs is to advocate for our children’s right to play and to protect their time so they have the opportunity to play. In our busy world it is easy to slip into heavily scheduling our children’s time. We want them to experience art, music, sports and social events. All of these things are great and promote our children’s development. But we need to make sure we are not sacrificing their time for unstructured, free play.
Provide space and resources
As adults we need to provide appropriate space and resources to promote our children’s play. Children need access to areas in which they can move their bodies, create and make a mess! They need spaces which don’t have to be tidied up all the time and where they can leave ‘works in progress’. Children will play with almost anything – we just need to make sure the things we provide are safe and accessible. The preference is for open ended resources that can be used for a variety of games and activities.
Our children need our spoken and unspoken permission to get fully involved in activities! They need to know that we are ok with them making a mess, that we won’t be cross when things get broken and that we are on their team.
Young children are still developing their ability to assess risks and hazards. If we see a hazard which is immediately dangerous (like broken toys) we should remove these. However when we spot risks in our children’s environment or behaviour, these can be great opportunities to work through risk assessments with them. You can ask questions like ‘how is your body feeling standing on that high platform?’ or ‘do you have a plan to keep everyone safe while you are using scissors?’.
Children love it when we watch what they are doing and delight in them! Often the best gift we can give our children is to simply sit back and watch them play, without being distracted. Sometimes they will invite us to join them in their games but at other times they just appreciate our company.