You buy your child an expensive box of building blocks, which he is still too young to play with, but you buy it anyway. You think it will bring out creativity and imagination in him if he gets an earliest possible exposure to the toy well known for it. To your utter surprise, all he wants to do is spread them on the floor and swim in them. Or, to your shock, ride a bike over them! As you cringe inside, trying to keep yourself from screaming in horror, you wonder if you did the right thing buying them in the first place.
Parents have a weird expectation about ‘toys’. They wish them to be a lifetime investment to cherish as memories when they grow old. The child, on the other hand, has a different plan. He just wants to play with it and have fun and continue to do so even after the toy gets broken (read: the child breaks it open). Children have an uninhibited curiosity and imagination that knows no bounds. A child can’t resist using all his senses to experience the world around. Even with nothing, a baby will play with his hands, put them in his mouth and enjoy just that! You hand him a soft toy, he holds it, shakes it, shifts it to the other hand, rubs it on his face, puts it in his mouth or throws it away and repeat. This is very crucial to his development, both physical and mental.
Adults tend to take the fun out of play by intervening unnecessarily with their critical evaluations of the play, reprimanding the child for just throwing the toys; his favourite play apparently offends the adults and is considered as bad manners. Or they give instructions in an attempt to ‘improve’ it. The child is having more fun throwing a ball sideways but we are worried he’s not going to learn if he keeps doing that. They start ‘helping’ him play without even asking. The child resists and the parent insists!
If you wish to witness the amazing creativity in your child unfold and grow with time, you must learn to sit back, relax and let him play the way he wants. Do NOT interrupt and ruin the magic by interviewing him in the middle of his imaginative play, video-recording him asking for a performance or by giving your ‘valuable’ input or criticism. From very early on, let the child touch and explore the things he wants to and if you’re concerned about your decorations, keep the fragile things out of his reach. The only rule of playing is the safety rule. Safety of the child and others around, for which you may need to stay there and watch but do it silently.However, allowing children to play doesn’t mean that they can turn the whole house upside down or damage household things. Designate an area where the mess can be made even if the child doesn’t have a separate room. Not only is it unavoidable but also crucial to the child’s mental and creative development. Involving him in the tidying up will also be a learning experience for him. How you deal with the ‘results’ of his creative play will either teach him that things should never be broken, lost and must always be in place or he can learn that such things happen all the time and there are always ways to fix them or deal with them. All we need is a balance. So what if she’s holding her doll with its beautiful hair? What if he’s unscrewing the car you just bought for him? What if he’s playing with the wheels of a turned over tricycle rather than riding it? What if she’s coloring the tiny page numbers instead of the drawing?When you are buying a toy for your child, how much to spend and how many he can buy at one time is your domain. But within those limits, which one to buy should be the child’s decision. If you let him decide each time, without forcing your opinion on him, the more confident and thought out his decisions would become. Do the opposite and the child will always regret buying ‘this’ toy; he had wanted ‘that’ one.
Our bosses often tell us to think outside the box and we struggle to shake open that box we locked our brains in years ago. It’s the play that broadens our minds and introduces us to imaginations where things can be whatever we wish them to be. It’s the play that trains our minds to remember that there ARE options, solutions, opportunities and possibilities that are newer and better than the existing ones and we CAN find them. Schools are enough to teach them the importance of ‘lines’ whether they’re walking in them or writing or coloring within them. Better let play stay out of it.
The play that starts with swimming in the blocks, riding on a bike over them and later on, stuffing them in toy cars, changes to following instructions from the booklet, forcing mom and dad to make the given models and finally takes the form of his own unique creations that make you forget how young he is!If you are patient enough to look beyond the mess he creates, the toys he breaks, the thing she throws around, you will be awed by the child’s ‘out of the box thinking’. Watch him play uninterrupted and be inspired by the magic in it, laugh at the genuine humor and appreciate the reminder it gives you that life is full of unlimited possibilities. A child’s play, in reality, is a blessing for you!