Category: Free Play

Yeay ! School’s out! Mom, I’m home! 7 Tips To Get Your Home Ready for Summer Vacation

Summer vacation is here! Your kids maybe spending more time at home. Let them feel welcome by re-arranging some basic things around the house and creating a YES environment. Prepare play spaces intentionally to inspire your kids toward meaningful activities. Then, you can allow them to play freely within safe and healthy boundaries. Observe your kids lovingly, soon you will see that behind the sometimes cute and seemingly illogical activities, true learning processes are occurring. As you know, learning is not limited to school hours.

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1) Prepare floor and table spaces for your kids to play, work or create without interruptions. Choose beautiful, comfortable, sunny spaces with cushions so that your kids LOVE to hang out there. A rug can define a play-space on the floor, so that the toys and learning materials don’t flood the whole room.

2) Prepare a shelf or drawer with basic art supplies for your kid’s independent use, meaning they don’t need to bother/ask you when they would like to start a small art project. Place paper in various sizes and colors, pencils, kid-proof scissors and glue, beautiful pictures for collages, colorful yarn. Use supplies you already own. “Waste material” like toilet paper rolls, egg boxes, and yogurt cups make great art supplies. To enhance creative work, you could add an extra table for art projects.

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3) Move all breakable decor, such as vases and delicate china, from the lower shelves in the living room and place them out of reach on higher shelves so that you won’t need to worry that they will be broken. The lower shelves work perfectly for toys, books or art supplies.

4) Kids love role-playing. Prepare a “dress-up” space with colorful materials, jewelry and hats. You can help arrange puppets, stuffed animals, dolls and miniature landscapes with cars, trees and figurines. By imitating mom, dad, or others, children process emotions and situations they experience. By pretending to fly, dive or eat, their creative, imaginary world is activated, and kids explore the concept of symbols, which is the foundation of literacy and numeracy.

5) Have water and healthy snacks in easy access places, so your kids can eat and drink without having to ask for it. You can place a water pitcher and glasses and nicely cut fruit and vegetables on a table. Add a sponge and towel for cleaning up, so spills are not a big deal.

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6) Your children need plenty of movement to maintain a healthy body. Inspect all outdoor spaces in your home and remove all potentially dangerous items — boards with nails, glass, unstable ladders, toxic chemicals, etc. Wander through your garden and find out if the tree is suitable for climbing, where little huts or fairy houses could be built, and where your kids could start gardening space to watch plants grow. If you don’t have an outdoor space at home, explore the nature trails and playgrounds in your area. (Go for a theme walk together, and find as many different leaves as you can. Then, look them up in a lexicon at home or take a trip to your local library.)

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7) For teenagers: Help them find a “real-life” project, like planning the family’s vacation, painting a wall or repairing the fence. In adolescence it is essential to find meaningful ways to contribute to the family and to a larger social circle, like volunteering at a community garden or at the library.

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Your home can be a creative playground for kids as well as a sanctuary for adults when spaces are effectively defined. Communicate with your kids patiently and state your boundaries friendly but firmly. Share your expectations and also listen to their wishes. Find compromises to fulfill as many needs as possible. By holding space for your kids to play freely and naturally, you can (re)experience the present-moment awareness and joyfulness of childhood together with them at home.

How Children Develop Empathy

When we are born, empathy is not part of our skill set.
We still float in an ocean of oneness and cannot yet distinguish between “you” and “me.” We feel in union with our mother and our environment. As young children, our capacity for empathy expands somewhat, but our worldview remains largely determined by our age-appropriate, child ego-centrism. In the early pre-school years, we tend to believe everyone feels exactly the same way we do. But each time we discover a person feels different than we do, we learn that each of us are separate individuals with unique feelings. As we grow up, we are meant to develop empathy, which is the ability to understand the feelings and perspectives of others.

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Empathy is a crucial skill for living together peacefully, cultivating friendships, and working in teams. Through empathy, we willingly slow down to have someone else catch up, or stop our loud drumming because someone else’s ears are hurting. We take time to hear out our classmate and try to understand what she is saying before blurting out our opinion. With the capacity to understand others inner world of motivations, feelings, and perspectives, we can make better decisions as a group and reach our goals together.

We can help our children cultivate empathy.
When we say, “Look at the dog; it seems like he is hurting when you hit him,” we help our children focus on the inner feelings of others to help guide their behavior. In this way, we play an important role in helping support the development of empathy. But here is the good news: it is not all up to us. Mother nature supports children in naturally developing empathy while FREELY PLAYING WITH EACH OTHER. Their internal drive for ROLE PLAY and PRETEND PLAY lead them to playfully experience many different roles, naturally growing their capacity feel the internal world of another.

Children love pretending to be someone else.
They joyfully take on the roles of teacher, student, mother, father, child, storekeeper, hairdresser, doctor, baby, cat, horse, princess, king, pirate, fairy, unicorn. In short, all they “try on” what they see in their environments and hear in stories. By “playing out” different roles children naturally experience the archetypes of human life: the betrayer and the betrayed, the hater and the lover, the excluded one and the admired one, the taker and the giver, the powerful and the weak one, the leader and the follower, the enemy and the ally.

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Through experiencing these different roles during play, children become intimate with the many nuanced movements of the human heart and psyche. The more they experience these nuances, the more empathic they become. HOWEVER, role play only teaches empathy when EACH CHILD FEELS SAFE during play AT ALL TIMES, and when each child knows, they can STOP THEIR GAME anytime they feel unsafe. This is part of our responsibility as adults caring for children.

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LEARNING COMPANIONS are needed
to make sure that each child can chose her own role joyfully, and that each child’s boundaries are respected. Learning Companions know how and when to step in, stop or redirect children towards play therapy materials such as the sandbox. As Learning Companions, we walk the line between allowing joyful play to do the teaching, and stepping in when necessary to make sure the environment is safe and conducive for optimal learning.
Would you like to learn to use basic skills from non-directive play therapy to skillfully hold a safe space for their role play? Become a Learning Companions by taking The New Learning Culture Online Course