Yesterday I saw this great video on Free Range Kids about a scheme that is being trialed in the UK at the moment, it is an incredibly simple idea but I’m not surprised at its popularity with children of all ages.
This video reinforces something I’ve be thinking about for quite a while now, about the way children play and interact and their environment’s impact upon this. Being homeschoolers has given me the chance to really observe the way that my children interact with each other and their friends, and how little they require to get their imaginations going. I’ve watched my boys and a few friends play for hours in the woods with some branches made into a rough shelter and the other bits of nature they find around them; their imaginations fill in any gaps and they play games that evolve and change depending on the players and the whim of the moment.
One of the things I’ve been most impressed with about the groups of children we meet is the way different genders and ages play together. On the whole boys will play more with boys and vice versa but there is none of the ‘yuck you’re a girl/boy’ they just play the games that seem most interesting to them. I watch Huwyl play just as comfortably with 9 year old girls as he does with a child half his age.
Every week we go to choir, a real mix of ages but mostly girls in the group. After their hour of singing the kids run around inside and out for as long as the weather will allow; there is never any discussion of what the ‘rules’ of the game is yet they all seem to know. Basically it involves running, catching, escaping and trying not to get caught. Us Mums chat and watch our kids running around like maniacs until we drag them reluctantly away, I think they would all happily play like that all day.
I think what I’m basically saying is that I love watching my children play. I love it when they make up their own games at home using whatever bizarre costume or props they can find around the place. I love it when they run around like maniacs with a gang of other kids, or find a quiet moment with a particular friend to work on a project or idea. Their dressing up box is a mismatch of crazy stuff, some home made, some bought second hand or found around the house. They don’t need it to be a special ‘costume’ because to them it becomes whatever they want. A ninja, king, knight…the possibilities are endless.
I’ve been thinking a lot about our new home and creating an outdoor space for the boys to play. This may seem crazy as ‘space’ is certainly we have in abundance but, while they are still young and we are still discovering what our land contains (not all of it made by nature or safe) I’d like to create an open ended playscape where their imaginations can run riot and they have access to materials rather than predetermined ‘toys’. I’ve pinned a ton of ideas on my pinterest board and I think I’ll be adding the idea of a ‘pod’ to the list of things I’d love to provide for the boys.
I’m also looking forward to the very near future when I will have the time (and hopefully energy!) to not just watch them but perhaps play with them a little. Being homeschoolers is not always easy but for me, knowing my children have lots of time to play in their own way and having the chance to witness the tides of imagination that sweep over and away with them, is a very big payoff.