Monday, August 07, 2006

Self-Directed Play and Introspection

Another thread that is really important to us and will definitely be included in our Enki Web activity is the importance of self-directed play and it's roll in self regulation, calming, and introspection.

i grew up an only child and really had very long periods of time where I played alone and quietly. Lost in my imagination and my thoughts. I really feel that this was a great gift in my life. Of course i wished I had siblings etc, every kid does, until they have them. LOL But really I think the extent of my creativity, thoughtfulness and ability to gain wisdom from my experiences and those of others comes directly from this aspect of my childhood. Of course there are other factors, but this is one I CAN bring to my children. Their alone time is far more limited due to siblings, but I really want to mindfully create opportunities for them to just free play, explore and imagine.

I remember being a little girl and playing with my Barbies. I didn't just do their hair and make them talk about their clothes. This was elaborate imaginative play that I can STILL remember storylines from. I would make entire "movies" as I called them, some would last for a month or so, and others just an afternoon. I had to build the sets, create the characters, choose their voices and styles. It would often take days just to get set up for the actual play part. The blessing here is that my Mother would allow for me to keep these huge "sets" set up in my room, so I could build and build and explore something through to the end, allowing the river to run its full course.

In looking back at this type of play I can see how it helped me to really explore the limits of my own mind and to really create an inner dialog that would carry me through many of life's curves and bumps. I want to give this opportunity to my kids.

So how?

Well currently and for as long as I have had the children, we have allowed a great deal of free play, supplying the open ended toys that allow them to get lost in their little worlds and to not feel that they had a time limit on it. It has been regarded as part of their job, and respected as an essential part of their childhoods. However I can see how having the boys sharing a room can really break up their individual styles and sets them up to really not have their own inner dialog develop. They are playing together and bending and communicating with one another throughout. This is terrific in its own right, but not the goal for this particular thread. (It fits into another)

We are renovating the house and while the boys will likely still want to sleep together, they will have their own rooms and their own spaces to build, explore and play while flowing with their individual stream of consciousness. I know they have very different styles and appreciate their ability to meet in the middle, however they aren't fully exploring themselves with this right now. I really hope having their own space will help with this.

Also we will continue to allow for the time to play in this way to exist. Giving them a free day each week to really just get lost in themselves, as well as the quiet time each day to play in their rooms uninterrupted and open ended.

This gives us three lesson days a week, plus the one day of coop. Together we will have four days of "learning" in a format that is conventional, and then we will have this free day, likely it will be Friday. There is still practice on this day, but the mornings are free.

Right now most of our days are open ended like this, because we are on a break, but I want to be sure to include it into our week, and to recognize it as a priority in our plans and expectations for each week.


APKimberMama said...

I love your thoughts on this. Freedom for self-directed play and introspection is one reason our boys don't watch television, use computers, or play any type of video games. We want there to be a lot of time for free play! Like you we believe in offering open-ended toys and not too many of them.

My boys do share a room, and many of their play activities are shared, and are in fact enhanced by having a play partner. However, they do split apart and do things on their own; sometimes in different spaces and sometimes in the same space. For instance, during quiet time they are together in their room listening, but they each "do their own thing" by building, looking at books, etc. Most days they will split at some point, with T spending more time on elaborate building and J-Baby playing outside with water and his dirt hole, or just looking at books. J-Baby doesn't have the desire to spend as much time building as T does, and he is very nurtured by digging in the dirt, "planting", making ponds, etc.

I am very interested to hear how your unstructured day works within the rhythm you have set up. T is at a point where he really seeks out the structure and rhythm and whenever we take a break (even if I am just not feeling well one day) he seems at loose ends. Our weekends are usually more unstructured than the weekdays and he flows well with that, so I don't think it is an inability to lose himself in free play. Perhaps it is the coming together that he seeks. Thursdays are fairly unstructured because of park day and even then he asks for practice time (not scheduled on Thursdays).

It's interesting, because I firmly believe that most kids today are overscheduled, and we have taken steps to be sure that our children don't have too many scheduled things to do; yet here I have my child asking for more.

Blissfulbee said...

I have always loved having the boys share a room, and it has always worked out great. It seems that in the last year, more than before, I can see a different style trying to emerge in GM. He is nine now and his privacy and play needs are changing. He is craving more time to be able to have space to himself. I wouldnt add on to the house just for that reason, but since we are doing the addition, it worked out where they could get their own spaces. More of a "well that works out" then a "he NEEDS his own space" sort of thing. However I know they will still want to sleep together for a while. They still sleep like a pile of puppies!!! :-)

Mine are sort of the opposite of T right now. Which may be an age thing? But they crave and seek out that unstructured time to get lost in their play. That seems to be their base line, or norm. It is the real rhythm of our home. Hence all my difficulities with trying to build/recognize a rhythm that includes set things for us to be doing. Right now Friday is just a free-day. I do try to be sure they are getting outside to play and climb etc, and of course the garden and chickens are a part of every morning, but we dont do the walk or the movement, we all just get up and start doing our own thing. GD especially loves this. His imagination is very active in the morning so he gets grumpy without some time to explore that. In fact last week when we were at the animal refuge all week, he was really upset to not have any morning time to himself. Even on regular days, he gets some time in the morning to play before we get our day started.

We may do practice time on Fridays, but I havent decided yet. My husband often can get off work earlier on Fridays so we usually get to do something together on that afternoon or evening. We will do and do do Quiet time though. It is necessary for them to have a good evening. They need that bit of peace in the afternoon. Although often that doesnt mean having to stop doing what they are doing, as long as it is calm play. But if they are runing about in the yard or something, I try to bring them in for some time just settled in and restful.