Finding Our Place In The World Through Play

I often notice a lot of interesting social dynamics with groups of children. Older children are finding their places as leaders, younger children are learning independence and communication, and they are all discovering how to be part of a community. This all happens through play.

Young children, especially ages 2-4 are learning how to interact with others and begin the transition from solitary play, parallel play (playing along side another child, but not necessarily playing WITH them), and cooperative play (playing and interactive WITH other children, usually 1-2 other children). Having varying developmental levels and ages in one place poses some unique social challenges, such as children choosing specific playmates (and therefore excluding others), others contently (or not so contently) playing alone, as well as a range of skills in appropriate play. (More on play)  

As a caregiver, when I am feeling challenged, there are several things I like to keep in my mind throughout the day. Below are the top two (and are so eloquently taken from Heather Shumaker’s book “It’s OK NOT to Share: and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids”):   

1. Meet each child with where they are today,not the 5, 8, or 10 year old she will become or the calm child he was yesterday. Look for ways to meet the child’s immediate social and emotional needs-- How he thinks, solves problems and lives with his active body.

→ When we allow kids to play and grow at their own pace, they gain a multitude of blessings. Kids learn life lessons and think to themselves:
  • I’m OK just as I am.
  • My caregivers support and understand me.
  • I can try new things when I’m ready.
  • I can pursue what interests me the most. I love to learn!
  • Life is awesome.
Asking myself this questions: Is this play hurting people or property?, helps me set limits based on safety. Instead of stopping/banning play, I look to change certain aspects of it, such as location, timing or tone. I find ways to say YES to play:
  • Yes you may only play with a few chosen playmates. I will teach you ways to appropriately tell others you don’t want to play.
  • Yes you can be angry. I can’t let you hurt people. You can use this pillow/stamp your feet/push against the wall when you are mad. I am here to support you through your emotions.
  • Yes, I will help you set limits with friends, and I will help enforce these limits too.
Children's Renegade Rights
by H. Shumaker
A child has:
  • A right to unstructured free play.
  • A right to choose her own playmates.
  • A right to use props and choose his own play themes.
  • A right to uninterrupted play during playtime.
  • A right to feel safe.
  • A right not to have objects taken from her (forced sharing).
  • A right to move and use his body vigorously.
  • A right to be outside.
  • A right to experience and express the full range of her emotions.
  • A right to ask questions and know things.
  • A right to stand up for his own rights by setting limits on others’ behavior.
  • A right to be listened to, to be respected, and to have her rights consistently supported by adults.
  • A right to grow at his own unique pace, following the natural course of child development.
2. It’s OK as long as it’s not hurting people or property.  Children’s Renegade Rights

What ways do you support your child? Are you a "renegade" parent/caregiver?