Jun 23, 2020

More True Play during isolation: recognizing play

 We've been safer at home for about 3 months now, so I thought I'd share a few more examples of things that have happened when I let my kids take the lead.

A few days ago, my daughter was having a really tough day.  She was whiny and restless and demanding screen time which I wasn't allowing that day since we'd had a lot the previous few days. Suddenly, in the midst of the moaning and groaning, she picked up our little pocket edition copy of Birds of Wisconsin -- a bird identification book that we've marked over the years whenever we spot a new variety of bird. My daughter went into the living room where we had colored pencils and a drawing pad on the coffee table, opened this book to the page with the cardinal and began to draw.
 Within just a few minutes, she had created this drawing of a cardinal. I noticed the details in my head -- she got the color right (including orange for the beak and red for the body and the little strip of black between the beak and the body), she got the little peak on the top of the head (I'd watched her draw this, so I also know that she made the pencil marks go up into the peak, not across, making the texture even more like the feathers on the cardinal.  I just realized that I forgot to ask her about that detail to see if it was intentional.)
 Next, she drew this oriole. Again, the beak is white and the belly and underside of the tail are a bright contrast.

All of this drawing took probably less than 15 minutes and honestly, she went back to being whiny (but maybe slightly less so) afterwards, but it was such a bright spot in our day.  If I had tried to hand her the bird book and asked her to draw some of the birds, this would NEVER have happened. I am curious to see if it will go anywhere further. We filled the bird feeders to see if maybe some of these birds would come to visit us.

A few days later, she saw me using my sewing machine to sew face masks for our family.  She wanted to use the machine, so I said we'd try sewing together the next morning (our schedule didn't suit to do it right then). The next morning, she played first with the magnetic pin cushion.  She noticed that the strip of metal also stuck to the magnet and interestingly, the pins could also magnetically stick to the strip of metal (even if neither were touching the magnet!). She told me her theory for why that was. Then, she arranged the pins so they would stand up like a tent:
 I was tempted to brush past this pincushion play to get to the sewing parts, but I realized that this play with the pincushion had some great lessons about metals and magnetism, so I waited until she was done exploring those properties.

I started the sewing project with a vague idea that maybe she'd like to sew a face mask to, but instead she wanted to sew a dress for her doll. Although I gave a few pieces of instruction about how to use the sewing machine (and talked about how the fabric needed to be big enough to go all the way around her if she wanted to wear it like a shirt which I probably should have just let her figure out on her own), she pretty much made this shirt all by herself:
And then she had a great time, cutting small scraps of fabric and running them through the machine, figuring out how the backstitch button worked, learning when to stop and start and how to clip the threads afterwards.  The only instruction I gave during that time was that with my machine you have to hold the loose ends of your thread for your first few stitches or it will get all balled up on the backside of your fabric and make a giant tangled mess, so I helped her learn how to make sure the threads were long enough and how to hold them.  She also experimented (under my close supervision!) with the iron to learn how it works.

And yet, these are only the play elements that I've taken photos of.  They're the types of play that excite me, but there are SO many other ways that my kids play that I don't photograph.  Endless role-playing with dolls and stuffed animals and "and then YOU say..." types of instructions that flow easily from one kid to the other, sharing the lead in creating the stories. There's the play that happens in Minecraft, exploring and creating worlds, connected together despite being on two screens. There's even a type of play that centers around seeing what they can get away with before mom or dad notices.  I'm trying to remember to recognize all of the different kinds of play and find value in all of it. Even the kinds that make an enormous mess or sound like fighting.

What sorts of play are happening at your house?

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