Is playing a waste of time?
March 27, 2012 at 11:01am
Most children are being put in classes – chess class, swimming class, guitar class, ballet class and many more.. I ask my daughter who is 4 years now, “Would you like to learn how to skate?, “I already know it mamma!” comes the instance reply. “Would you like to try to learn stretching since you really like it with the help of a teacher? “But I am already learning.” Would you like to join the dance class?”, “I am already learning it at school mamma.”
Many parents ask me, how much play can be allowed in a day. After all we cannot let her get by play, play and more play? When will learning happen if she plays all day?
Sometimes like all parents I wonder is play really a waste of time? Why is it that young children instinctively want to always play. No one needs to teach them how to play! For me it turns out that life lessons as a parent is all about trusting and my ability to continue trusting myself and my child. I trusted her when she wanted to nurse any time of day and night no matter even if it may have seemed a zillion times all day and night. I trusted when she showed me signs that she was ready for family food. I trusted when she was done and dints push her for just one more bite. I trusted when she wanted more food many days when I felt it might be more than what I considered it was enough. I trusted when she was ready for school. I trusted when she wanted to play in the pool in cold water, I trusted when she refused to enter the pool on other days even if it seemed she is all fine with no cold or fever. I trust her now when she says I don’t want to go to a class.. For me, child rearing seems to be a test of my ability to trust. After all I din’t have to make her walk or talk. Family seemed concerned when she hadn’t walked past her 18 months. She hadnt spoken much until past her 2 years. Just yesterday my close friend who met me after years said, "your daughter can really talk eh!!". This with her non stop talking for 3 hours I had guests at home. No wonder we hadnt exchanged more than just a few sentences about our lives! Interestingly, language is the most difficult thing to learn, no one ever needs to really teach them that. So maybe I can continue to trust.
When she was just 15 months she spent every morning and evening for hours on end pouring water from one glass to another messing up the floor every time she bathed and every she ate her breakfast and lunch, I knew she was learning how to measure, how to coordinate how to use her judgement. At 3 she knew how to use normal adult scissors with no supervision at all.
Children are born explorers and if allowed their curiosity allows them to master their skills in accordance to their internal timetable. They will learn exactly what they need to learn when they are ready for it. Just a few days ago I wondered how is it that music maestros always have music savvy children? how is it that artists have art savy children? how is it that a athletic parent has a physically aware child and so on and so forth. The answer seems to speak out loud, exposure as a part of everyday living is the best form of teaching. I highlight “as a part of everyday living” because that’s when play becomes magical teaching process for children. The exposure has to happen in the background of playing and normal living.
This is so true for any form of learning, be it physical, emotional or communication skills.
I remember 25 years ago, while playing in our garden, I looked over the back yard wall into our neighbours garden and noticed the usual shabby looking servant boy busy playing with some coconut shells and stones. Of course he never went to school, but voila as he played he created the most astonishing water falls out of those two halves of the coconut shells and a small piece of pipe! I was awestruck even back then. No school lessons ever taught me how to actually make that kind of creation even with fully equipped laboratories in our school thru my schooling. When I sat down to help my daughter with project on homes, my observation of that young servant boy came in handy. I am hoping my lil explorer has picked up on this experience.
That is what I call learning science in reality. Now when my daughter wants to know how water came up when the crow puts the pebbles in the pot while reading her stories, I tell her why don’t you try it yourself? She played throwing stones in the buckets for days and bingo she learned her physics law of buoyancy.
When she says I want to cook something for you mamma, I tell her what would you like to cook, She says "I don’t know yet mamma but I just have an idea." Without any further questions I let her mix all the ingredients that comes to her mind. One day its atta with eggs and another day it was atta, jiggery and cut fruits. She asked to fry it up and guess what she had made the yummiest fruits fritters I had even tasted!! Did I even notice she had learned the law of measurement? and cooking too in the bargain.
My daughter is not very fond of physical games. But interestingly when she is allowed to pick up a book in the book store, she had been lately picking up story books of Mahabharata or a book where characters physically fight with each other. She is trying to assimilate reality, alleviate her fears. This is her way of work with herself. She is learning her social skills and perhaps even some form of combat when the boys in her class show a punch to her.
When emotions are running high and energies low, I use my skills of communication of problem solving with my daughter (essential part of my parenting communication workshop – check NnN Gentle Parenting group on Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/groups/358729090820372/). I knew she is emulating when she announced just last night, “In school its difficult to problem solve mamma because no one listens to each other.” !!
I realised that learning the phenomenon was far more important than just naming the learning itself.
As I write this, I once again let my trust be in the process of life to allow me to let life happen as a play. As a parent I am only a net of support, security and gentle guidance for my child not a director of her learning process. Life becomes a burden when work feels like no play and isn’t it true that those who PLAY LIFE are the ones with a better share of joy and happiness?
Rajeshwari Shalabh Suradhaniwar This made me speechless!! I always had the confidence that i would prove to be a great mom and a good parent. But now that my daughter is almost 10 months old,there have been several times when my patience has been tested-as a wife,as a mom and as a Daughter in law. I remember crying the whole nights for the sudden imbalance and sudden change in my married life after baby.
It took me 3 months to bond with my baby and now she is an inseparable part of me. Your article has given me a new point of view to my parenting skills. Trust your and your baby's instincts and it leads to a healthy parent-child relationship!
Thank u so much :) your summary of experience will be helpful to all parents here. Love to Zaara,she's a wonderful child :-*
March 27, 2012 at 2:13pm · Unlike · 2
Deepa Malhotra thnks yasmin:) i so needed it with my 20 month and 5 month old boys....it is so difficult to practice patience and trust....
March 27, 2012 at 11:49pm · Like
Nupur Gulati Nice read.. Thanks
March 28, 2012 at 11:21am · Like
Effath Yasmin Rajeshwari, thank you for your kind words. Parenting children is definitively the most challenging test of ones abilities. As you trot through life as a parent allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from it and being kind to yourself. There is great power in being vulnerable so share your experiences with your child. and yes so far the single biggest lesson I have learned in my journey of parenting is the ability to trust my child and myself.
March 29, 2012 at 9:52am · Like
Effath Yasmin Nupur Gulati thank you Deepa Malhotra, I am glad we can support each other in this journey called parenting. It helps if you can pick a few communication skills to deal with it.
March 29, 2012 at 9:54am · Like
Aparna Kabiraj reading this , i now feel guilty (for the umpteenth time) when my daughter would need to be nursed and i would get so utterly irrritated . I have to say this - that a first time mom needs to be told that ''Trust your baby when she wants to nurse any time of day and night no matter even if it may have seemed a zillion times all day and night''. I had a friend who did tell me - . but that your job now Aparna !!??!! It was outright awakening . Its a well written piece Effath... i find a lot of encouragement when I read such aritcles - I think playing in any form is good - till the learning is allowed in freedom. sometimes having a teacher is too much of a conditioning, dont u think ??
March 29, 2012 at 12:55pm · Unlike · 1
Effath Yasmin Aparna Kabiraj, I totally agree with you a teacher is a person who allows you explore and gently guides you to a discovery of knowledge.. Here again I would lead my daughter to a person who can help learn a skill if she begins to show interest...again trusting her teachable moments. Like once she asked me "who is God mamma? and believe me she could sustain full 1 hour discussion on the subject of God.. and although admittedly I was uncomfortable with the nature of her inquiry (we were never allowed as children to question the existence of God), I let my anxiety channel into acknowledgement of her need to know and must I say I was delighted with her 4 year old brains level of insight..
March 29, 2012 at 6:05pm · Like
Effath Yasmin Marianna France, thank you..I agree these are important lessons as parents.
March 29, 2012 at 6:07pm · Like
Mirabelle Dcunha As aways,..you rock Yasmin!
April 3, 2012 at 11:41am · Unlike · 1
Swetha Purushothaman Effath Yasmin mind blowing page !! luv ur parenting stride !
April 16, 2012 at 1:32pm · Unlike · 1
Dolly Bose So true, loved it :)
April 23, 2013 at 8:01am · Unlike · 1
Mithira Risham Amazing article Effath Yasmin..In my 6 months experience of ebf twins there are many a times when i just lost the battle with myself..when questioned my ability to nurse..times when one of my boys just wants to nurse all day and the other is happy with his usual feeds/ nursing on my demand bcoz he would never demand to nurse..constant comparison as you'd rarely see twins with behavioral similarity..If a baby is cranky for reasons unknown ppl would say my milk is not enough..If baby unusually playful I'm relaxing too much n not taking enuf care of the playful one since he's innocent..The never ending parenting advice none of them inspiring to the mom..but babies know it all..they will set their own traits..when to nurse when to sleep n when to play..even whom to play with..I'm taking inspiration from you and will learn to trust my babies from now on..
August 11, 2016 at 1:28pm · Like
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