Today Elli had her friend, Ethan, over to play. They played well going upstairs and down, playing with a little bit of everything.There was a new level of give and take in their play.Elli wanted to play kitchen, Ethan wanted to play with Nate’s wooden bowling set. Somehow out of this potentially loaded scenario, I became the baby and they the parents. Elli went upstairs to make me some food, while Ethan, the Dad, practiced his bowling. They were quite happy with this solution. No tears, no frustration that one was not getting to play what they wanted, but a happy “marriage” where they both were able to play in their own way. Kids really are capable of solving most problems on their own, if we give them the space and support needed to navigate the challenges.
While the kids were upstairs playing I was reading the book Einstein Never Used Flashcards. The authors shared how parents can promote language development in everyday play through the use of questions. I found myself applying these principles with Ethan and we had a nice little conversation about bowling and how his brother bowls on the Wii, but how what he was doing was actually a much harder game. I could have just let him play, he was quite content, but by engaging with him I was able to get a glimpse into his life, affirm his ability to play a harder game, and generally connect with him. All in all it was a pretty impressive little conversation with a three year old.
I see the value of utilizing this skill of asking questions and initiating conversations during play extend well beyond the language development stage. Kids like to talk when they are relaxed and engaged in something they enjoy. When adults actually take the time to really play with them, they feel valued and safe and are much more likely to open up when asked meaningful questions. I found this particularly true of teens in my work at the teen center. If, as parents, we can connect with our children and their friends through play then we will continue to be relevant and have a positive impact in their lives.
Another great read!
Hirsh-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R.M., & Eyer, D. (2003) Einstein never used flash cards. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Inc.
It always fascinates me to see what Nate and Elli’s friends pick out to play with for toys.It’s often not what I would have thought. Today I pictured that Ethan would have gravitated towards the car mat and cars or perhaps the Lego table. While he showed a passing interest in these, he was really taken with the simple wooden bowling set. So much so that we had to stop and search for the ball for five minutes so he could play. Luckily we foung it! He then proceeded to set the pins up in a variety of ways, working patiently to knock them down, remaining calm even when it took multiple tries. I found watching him fascinating.