Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April 3 - My Playground Olympian

April 3

Today’s adventures took us in a very different direction - to the  Ben & Jerry’s Factory.  Today was free cone day, and it seemed like a great idea to surprise the kids with their first ice cream of the season. The staff in Waterbury was on the ball and the Nate and Elli were delighted.  I think Nate would have gladly skipped the ice cream to play on the playground, but was excited when I assured him that he could do both.  Elli’s curiosity brought her to request a tour which was also free today, so Nate semi- willingly endured that too, as long as the playground time didn’t get cut. 

                Once we finally made it to the playground the kids had fun conquering the new space.  Nate came over at one point and laid down on the grass.  When I asked him if he was ready to go, he emphatically said, “No Mama, I haven’t gotten my playground medal yet!”  And with that he dashed off to climb the tire ladder.  Apparently today he was an Olympian reaching for greatness on this new play structure.  Shortly after this he was spoken to by a kindly grandmother that he should be going down the slides and not up. 

                Variety in play gives children an opportunity to try new things and make friends.  There’s something about a new play space that sparks different imaginative play.  Yesterday he was a super hero, today he was an athlete who’s going to open a shop and sell ice cream.  He assured us that Papa, Elli, and I could each have free ice cream.  One of the well documented benefits of play is that it allows children to use their creativity to try out different roles (Brown, 2009).  I see this every day with Nate and Elli.  Their play is a large dress-up game where they may change their outfit/character every few minutes.  This is really fun to watch.  They try things out in a safe environment that has minimal negative consequences for “getting it wrong.”  I see themes in their play.  If they like their play outfit, they’ll put it on again and again.  If not, they’ve tried that and they're off to try on another role.  Providing space and time for these opportunities is part of my responsibility as a parent.

     These opportunities do not have to be pricey.  Today's outing was free with the exception of the gas.  I routinely watch for free or inexpensive opportunities in local papers, on Facebook, at local churches, or on community bulletin boards.  We frequent local playgrounds and playgroups.  Recently, we were able to attend one community's annual free spring marionette show.  Our local library has free or reduced passes to Echo Science Center, Shelburne Farms, and the Vermont State Parks for anyone to check out.  I may be a stay at home mom, but rarely do we just "stay home."  Our lives are rich.  Most places we go I let the kids take the lead as explorers of a new land.  It's just one more of their outfits in their dress-up game of childhood.

For some great reading check out: 

Brown, S. and Vaughn, C. (2007). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and
     invigorates the soul.  New York, NY: Penguin Group.

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I'd love to hear about your adventures!