It may look like play to you, but it’s serious work to them.
When your child puts a block on a tower, and it falls down.
When your child drops a pebble in a puddle and watches the ripples flow from the object they threw in.
When your child throws a ball up in the air and watches it come back down to Earth.
When your child drops his sippie for the 18th time from his high chair, says “Uh oh!” then looks at you expectantly waiting for you to come over and pick it up. Again.
We Are All Scientists
Yep. It’s all work.
I genuinely believe we are all scientists at heart. We try something, see what happens, and depending on the outcome, adjust our behavior. Children are no different. They are learning about their world by doing. Surround a child with things to experiment with, and they will repeatedly try things, over and over, to see what happens. It may look random, haphazard, chaotic. But to them, it’s trial and error and they are learning and growing from it.
A Child’s Work is Play
Maria Montessori said a child’s work is play. Often in my therapy sessions, I find myself using that quote, expressing that while it may look like nothing, a child’s play is the cornerstone of learning. Cognitively, a child develops an understanding of cause and effect by dropping that pebble. He learns about gravity when things fall down. She learns about change, and maybe even develops resilience, when she puts the block on top of the tower a different way, and this time, it doesn’t fall. And she learns about boundaries, emotions, and strategy when she tests you by asking you to do the same thing over and over.
Create an Accessible Environment
We want to encourage these strategies of play. Creating a setting where a child can discover and play is crucial and so having items around and accessible that encourage interaction is key. Let the toys and blocks be accessible. Set them out on the coffee tables or windowsills to make them come to life. Put books on the lower shelves of the bookshelf. Put safe items in the lower kitchen cabinets and let the children explore. Yes, they will take them all out, and if they are like my child, they will crawl inside. That’s ok. Teach a clean-up routine to put it all back. Make it a treasure hunt, prompting them to “Find the…” Don’t’ forget to go outside and explore. Even a front porch can be a place of learning. (It can also recharge the senses of a tired parent, giving you a little mini-break and time for fresh air.) And remember, when he drops his sippie again and again, he’s learning something. Every time.
And who knows? You might have the next Einstein on your hands. I heard he was a real pistol in early childhood.