“Breathless, we flung us on a windy hill, laughed in the sun, and kissed the lovely grass.” – Rupert BrookePosted July 30, 2014
What have the children been up to this summer? Imagine the things YOU did as a child in the summer; that is precisely what we did at All Seasons Preschool. Climb trees. Dig in the garden. Have a picnic. Play hide-and-seek in the meadow. Build a fort in the woods. Get dirty. Roll down a grassy hill. Endless hours outside. These are the elements of which summertime memories are made.
Last week I walked our dog through our neighborhood park, the same park I’ve walked through almost every day for fourteen years. For possibly the first time, I saw young children (ages 7-10) at the playground without an adult present. This was so remarkable that I had to slow down to watch for a while. The neighborhood kids at the park in the absence of an adult was not the only thing that attracted my attention, the nature of their play was entirely different than what I see on my walks there.
Seven children huddled together, discussing the rules of their game of tag; who was IT, what bases were safe zones, and which parts of the park were off-limits. There were brief negotiations, but no arguments and certainly no fights. This was all accomplished without any parental input and everyone was happy enough to play the game. No parent stepped in to “rescue” the person who was unhappily selected to be IT, to negotiate the safe zones, or to remind everyone to take turns. Everyone was satisfied ENOUGH to play. Children, given the opportunity, understand that in order to be part of the play, they must sometimes concede to the wishes of others.
Not once did I hear, “Watch me do the monkey bars! “ or “Push me on the swing,” or the worst, “Come take a video of me going down the slide.” These children were not preoccupied with being the center of an adult’s attention. Rather, they were completely immersed in an elaborate game of tag with rules they came up with on their own. So engrossed were they in their game, they did not even notice me or my dog, who they always ask to pet when I walk past their homes. Absent was the erroneous belief that one must be the focal point at all times. How freeing for a child to know they can exist and have fun even when Mom or Dad isn’t there to watch or to document it for the scrapbook.
Breaking down this play, these young children were required to plan, organize, and make decisions on their own. Socially, they all needed to exhibit some flexibility and self-regulation in order for the game to succeed. Most obvious, each individual was immersed in vigorous exercise for an extended amount of time. This gift of free play in early childhood, is offered each day, under the careful supervision of teachers who trust in children’s ability to regulate their own play.