Monday, February 6, 2012

conversing with the rain

I completely lost my hat yesterday afternoon. I am not even going to justify myself, but I bossed and intimidated the girls into doing a lot of work, including Anjali's reading and piano. Sometimes it drives me crazy that these kids have all these resources around them to encourage learning and creativity and play, and these things are virtually untouched unless husband or myself jump in to lead them. The sewing box is untouched. The lightbulb lab hardly gets used, and the children these days hardly draw on the floor. There is a box of sidewalk chalk left on the floor near a cupboard that they have free reign over and that is never used either. Painting activities donot last longer than five minutes.

The only thing that these girls take self initiative about is talking, jumping, gossiping, bullying husband etc. Puzzles get a fair bit of attention, but only when husband takes them out. Either there is some bad organization and an overwhelming number of toys that they have grown out of but are still within their vision. And then Anjali complains that when she is with patti' she has to do only tamil writing and no activities other than playing with toys, and when she is with me, she gets to do homework and activities. How many activities exactly can I do with the children over a period of two hours every evening?

I have read the articles that much of children's time must be devoted to free play but the organizer in my head screams when this free play time is devoted to talking, jumping and mummy carry. "If I had so much free time", I tell myself, "I would complete a hundred and fifty craft projects. I would spend less time hanging around and more time doing constructive stuff".

Not that the kids dont do creative stuff. Anjali and Sophia spent about an hour yesterday in the bathroom squashing soap and water and creating a slippery mess on the floor, and then they moved seamlessly to the toyroom where they were segued into some kind of pretend play or another, which involved taking all the seeds/ shells and marbles from the sensory box and cooking with them and making a zoo full of squirrels. Top points for imaginative play. What about constructive play?

Yes yes, i have read the articles on pretend play and free play and taking part in child directed play developes confident children... but is there a need for the child to move from one constructive activity to another? Constructive activity being defined as an activity that is constructive in my opinion and that visibly improves a skill in the child? And should the constructive activity also be child directed? Do children who perform this kind of free child directed "unconstructive play" get into a child play rut?

That is a tall order for children of three and five year old - identify what you are weak at and work on activities that improve this skill. Afterall, that is what parents are for, to identify that the child is weak at something and create opportunities for improvement.

What are these opportunities? What to do when the child ignores them or doesnot take sufficient advantage of them (Note: my currently hot headed definition of sufficient advantage is when the time spent at the activity is sufficiently greater than the effort that it took for me to set up the play)

The authors of the playful parenting book that I am currently off and on reading are probably going to go all grim and unfriendly when they read this post, but what the hell, its my blog, and writing helps me to toss arouond thoughts and ideas that are too complicated and muddle my head when I keep them in.

I know and understand that play and playing with children really helps them to become confident. Look at Vaishna, for instance. I remember her spending hours and days at a time, closetted in a room, even when she was about 8 or nine years old. A room with a black board, armed with a stick and a bunch of toys. She would go on for hours pretending to be a teacher. And look at her now, with a CA under her arm and a march into her career. 

YEs, play is important, but where should the parent draw the line between studies and play? Which comes first? Something Swati said yesterday at the IEP facilitators' meeting comes to mind. What are the tangible benefits of IEP activities? They dont help children improve in Math/ Science/ English. But then we can ask ourself - what is the advantage of having children who are good at Math, Science, English as opposed to having confident children. The director at my institute is known to tell us not to put too much importance into the fact that someone has a PhD. Gates had no PhD, nor did steve jobs. The highest IQs he said, are the school dropouts and the delinquents. They are too bored of school and dont think that what school gives them is of much use and they take their brians elsewhere. Then there is us.

And it all brings us back to the role of parents. I was about to say facilitators... but the role of parents.

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