In our home, we believe in free play. Lots of time spent creating and imagining. Often times when people ask what I do, there is a misconception that my home is always pristine and there is never a mess. That is far from the truth! Mess is where learning happens, but we have systems in place to help our son have order and put things away once he is done creating.
"Mess is where learning occurs"-- and by learning, I mean healthy brain growth. Where connections are made and children are engaged in problem solving skills. I am teaching two cognitive development courses this semester, so my mind has been swirling around some of the ideas in current brain research--- if you haven't read Mind In the Making by Ellen Galinsky I highly suggest it. Another favorite is John Medina- I was hooked after reading his book Brain Rules and have been enjoying his newer version- Brain Rules for Baby. He asserts that giving children simple objects (boxes, crayons, tape, etc) and giving children the space and time to just play is where it is at..."This kind of open-ended play was fertilizing their brains with the behavioral equivalent of Miracle-Gro" I LOVE that phrase. That is why we will have what feels like an obstacle course set up with Legos, train track, cars under the bridges of the track, blankets serving as the "depot".
Medina goes on to share that research has found that children who are allowed to play in this way are more creative, better at language, better at problem solving, less stressed, better at memory and more socially skilled.
Bring on the boxes and tape and everything else! These toys don't have batteries. They don't light up or talk to you. The child is the one creating and using the toy/block/paper roll tube however they imagine. THIS!!! And guess what? They cost LESS!
During these colder winter days, please, I implore you- give your children space. Don't direct their play. Let them figure things out. Allow them to struggle a bit trying to figure out how to make the train track go the way they are imagining in their mind. When they invite you to join them, go all in! Enjoy playing with your child in a different way!
Beth is a mom first and foremost. She is also a trained Montessori teacher who is passionate about making the lofty ideals of the Montessori philosophy more real and manageable for families.