As a parent, you probably often think about how you can best prepare your child for life, attend courses, get information in guidebooks and on the Internet, obtain learning materials and try to cover all possible learning areas. But what children mainly need to develop well is one thing above all: free play. I would like to tell you about our little family, how we handle it, why free play is the optimal early intervention for every child and which tips you can use to promote free play.
Children are little free spirits
With a toddler it is often another thing to play – first children play next to each other and later it is also the case that first of all you have to learn to do something together. There is a fight over a toy or the little playmates simply have very different ideas about how to play. With my big daughter, however, the main problem was that she was quickly intimidated by other children and other rooms. The offer and the volume were always overwhelming and so she usually sat on my lap during the playgroup time and could only get away from me after a long time. But every time we went somewhere in nature, these processes went much faster and – I still notice this today in the most different constellations – all children play much faster and better together.
Why is free play so important now? According to brain researcher Gerald Huther, playing is downright “fertilizer for the brain”, because unintentional playing ensures optimal networking in the brain. Teaching and encouraging them does not allow the neuronal connections to develop as well. Think of your school days, for example: When you were studying for an exam, everything was quickly forgotten. But the things that really interest you may still know. And children learn best through play. They choose the games whose learning content they need at the moment themselves and thus create their own optimal early education. Maybe they play role-playing games for a while, then they get intensively involved in kneading and squeezing and so on. Independent experiences lead to game flows and thus to the release of happiness hormones and the networking of neurons in the brain.
How you can promote play?
- Playing in nature. On the one hand, there are no walls that restrict and on the other hand, the existing materials give the imagination more freedom. Without the pressure of having to get involved, creative processes emerge.
- No fear of boredom. Especially if you can allow boredom and expect it from the children, suddenly completely new ideas and possibilities arise. Children have to learn to create on their own, they discover the infinite resources of their imagination – and these are resources that they can also access later in their lives.
- Turn a blind eye. Do you know when the children are suddenly quiet and you know for sure that they are probably doing something now? But maybe this is exactly such a free flow of play, which is a great early intervention. Mats with potting soil or playing with the tap not only stimulate the imagination, but also stimulate the basic physical understanding and also promote haptics and fine motor skills. Yes, you can certainly talk yourself into a little bit of pretty talk!
- Let yourself be explored. Again and again I see parents who want to please their children and make an effort to teach them something. Children would learn much more if they could discover the purpose of a playground equipment for themselves – and it wouldn’t be a bad thing if they found one other than the one intended. On top of that, they would also have much more fun with it.
- Participate & let the kids decide. Of course you can and should also play with your children. But why not take a different approach and play by the rules of the children? This is another way to support free play and get to know your child from a different perspective.
- Take your time. If you walk a short distance, children usually discover some small things along the way. Maybe a beetle or a special stick. Instead of pushing further, you can also give the child time to take a closer look at the object.
In today’s world it is often difficult for us as parents to simply stop and enjoy the moment. Maybe we can also benefit from our children and be infected by their playflows. Until then, I hope you enjoy (re)discovering the boredom and free play.