Did you remember playing a lot during your childhood? I mean like random playing around. Not playing during enrichment classes, playing with a planned outcome in mind or playing games with top down instructions. I remember playing ping pong on the coffee table, on the walls and of course playing dress up because I got caught cutting my sister's hair with a real pair of scissors.
But I don't understand why for the life of me, I don't remember such playtime when I had my first child. I was so enthusiastic about incorporating structured play, like having organised playtime with objectives, so much so I got too overwhelmed and sensitive over little things. For example, he couldn't play this way because it seemed meaningless or he will just mess up the kitchen if he hung around me when I cooked or he might hurt himself unnecessarily if I let him wander around the house (which is absolutely ridiculous because I live in a 70sqm house).
It ended up in a disaster (not total disaster) because he didn't learn to play and explore by himself, which I think is very key to a child's development. When a child plays and explores independently, I don't mean that the parent just leaves the child to his/her own devices and ignores the play. But I feel that as the child self explores and plays independently, the parent can observe more and understand the child's pace of development as well, instead of enforcing without understanding whatever he/she feels is good for the child to learn.
When my second child came along, I still didn't really learn. But because of circumstances, there was more washing, cleaning and cooking, my daughter was left on her own to play and explore much more than my son. When I'm washing the dishes, I have to leave her at the highchair after meals for a longer period so I would just put some toys on her table. And one day, without me giving her any instructions, at 12 months old, she suddenly started stacking a number of mini blocks I set on her high chair. I was astonished! My son couldn't stack blocks at 12 months even after countless prompting and instructing. Maybe it's the gender, maybe it's the personality or even IQ level but whatever the case is, she DID explore and play the blocks on her own, I didn't interfere with her at all.
And so from then on, I've been less strung up on planning activities for my children. I used to think I was a lazy SAHM if I didn't plan a 'lesson', like I wasn't making use of my time at home and if I was just playing around with them, it would seem so meaningless. Perhaps it's because of our result-oriented culture. Everything must have an outcome, a product or a grade. We tend to forget about the learning and development that comes from the process - the exploring, the making of mistakes, the hits and misses, the brainstorming, the problem solving, the creating, and even the random crazy actions, all contribute to our growth. And this is so critical for our children during their formative years.
This week set aside time for the children to play playfully and of course play with them as well. Here are the 2 kiddos just being playfully silly during playtime :)