Our first “formal” A Living Family play time was a hit with adults and kids alike!
We had a range of toddlers from 16-28 months. We had some low-key free play as we got to know each other better. As we got more settled children poured their own juice from an appropriately-sized pitcher, peeled their own bananas and clementines, and shared snacks with each other. The children practiced pouring and scooping and dumping — toddler favorites! Monkey (and “other one” monkey) was a great friend to all. The low sitting bike, push alligator walker/runner and the baby doll stroller made for some fun movement exploration. Inside the deluxe recycled box house was cozy. Of course, there were lots of moments to take turns and share with each other. Sometimes waiting was easy, and sometimes just seeing someone else with a toy felt hard. This sparked conversation for the adults present around sharing language. Rather than forcing a child to share, setting an example we may not intend, we can encourage genuine compassion and generosityin our children by validating the needs of all involved and encouraging children to find their own solution.
Helpful sharing language for almost any situation are phrases like the following:
- “Can she have a turn please when you are all finished?” or “Friend would like a turn please when you are all finished.” (For the one in possession of the desired object.)
- “You can have a turn when friend is all finished with their turn.” (For the one waiting.)
- “Sometimes it’s hard to be patient. You can play with ____ or ____ while you wait for friend to finish their turn.” (For a child that needs more guidance or is feeling frustrated.)
As sensory play is vital for child development, for a sensory activity we got out the homemade play dough (no cream of tartar needed!). Natural homemade food coloring using beets and turmeric turned out differently than expected. To stimulate our olfactory organ (the nose!) the dough was scented. The orange smelled like ginger (slightly) and the brown smelled of cinnamon (strongly). Buttons and pipe cleaners help fine motor skills and bring something new to play dough. Improvements for next time would be to give each child less dough, a ball about the size of their fist, to allow more scope for creative play. One other conversation that came up was around alternatives to praise. As parents we find ourselves in awe of our child’s capabilities. We also want to build our child’s self-esteem and confidence. Most of us were told “Good job” and “Excellent work” often; some of us feel we were never told enough. Praising our children feels like an important way to let them know we feel positively about what they are doing. Unfortunately, saying “Good job” tells our children little about their actions or self worth other than the fact that Mama or Daddy gets happy when I….and the counter to that is the observation that Mama and Daddy don’t get happy when….the focus is on Mama and Daddy. This may not be our actual goal. We can help our children feel their own pride and sense of accomplishment by naming specifics instead of using vague generalizations. How can we let our children know that we see, value and believe in them (and are just amazed at who they are!)?
Alternatives to praise center around simply telling our children what we can observe:
- “You climbed up!”
- “Wow, that took a lot of patience. You tried and tried, and then you did it!”
- “I notice you are holding that glass carefully so it doesn’t spill.”
A final thread that weaved it’s way through many conversations was that of trust. We had conversations about weight, climbing, eating, sleeping, nursing, signing, talking, sharing and more. Underlying all of these was the concept of trust. One of the most powerful gifts we can give our children is our trust. This is no easy task, and it can take work. The more we trust our children, the more we teach them that they are trustworthy and can trust themselves. We give them agency and help them grow towards independence and self-sufficiency. We allow them to develop a true sense of compassion and care for others. Trusting our children, although it can be the scariest thing for an adult, can bring joy into their hearts and lives at they delight in the wonders of life and their bodies.
Yes, this was a simple few hours of play time, but look how much happened!
Thanks to all who came out.We look forward to hosting more play times so the adults and children can get to know each other more and more, as well as share and learn from each other. If the suggested times for meetups don’t work for you and you have a specific time and day that does work for you, let us know!
The next Play Time is scheduled for Thursday, March 29 at 10 am. (Click here for articles on child-led play.)
There is also a Play Time happening along side the Open Topic Brunch on Saturday March 24 at 10:30 am. (Kids or no kids — your choice!)
- The S Word
- How Do We Develop Empathy?
- Children and Altruism
- These Toddlers Are NOT Sharing (OR How to Help Your Child Learn to Share)
- Teaching the Art of Sharing
- What to Do about a Toddler Toy-taker
- Respecting Play: Observing and Interacting at the Same Time
- Toddlers Spontaneously Share: No Adult Intervention Needed