We’re all feeling under pressure in todays world; none of us have much time for ourselves, it feels as if we have no time to think, no time to cook, no time to play…and then we become parents.

I was watching Michael McIntyre the other evening, all of my family was laughing hysterically as we related to his sketches about raising his two boys and about how to keep his children busy while he and his wife tried to have a lie in. In his imaginary scenario, he flung an iPad at his boys like a frisby, ‘there you go, the iPad has 100% battery, see you in a couple of hours!!’’ says Michael as he confidently walks out of the room. Hilarious! We all know how this feels. He so understands what we are all struggling with. 

The good news is: children do need to play independently of adults. They need to take their imagination, their ideas along a ‘play pathway’ of their own, so they can experience the momentum of their own interests and develop the ability over time to self regulate. Adults are needed at ‘play junctions’ where your little one will ask for support with a spelling or fine motor task that is beyond there development. A junction that will trigger the purchase of, say, children’s scissors or felt pens. The time you invest in supporting and showing your little ones how to play independently, will be rewarded with a little time for yourself. You don’t need to drive them everyday to a guided activity. Give your children the time to play.

Most of us understand how important play is and how important it is to support and to promote safe, quality, independent play. What we want is to facilitate this type of play. We can do this with well invested time and space.

Our children need this space, so that they can create these play pathways I’ve mentioned above. 

A play pathway is where there is a trigger, this trigger leads our little ones down a route of their own interest. For example, your toddler takes an interest in wheels and rotation, left to their own devises, they notice cars, this then triggers an interest in building roads with wooden blocks, drawing road signs, looking at the colours of different vehicles, reading the names of the different cars, counting how many wheels different types of vehicles have. Oh wait, now your toddler notices there are many modes of transport that also use wheels, and turn their fascination to trains. Play pathways are simply opening up the learning and development of our children, through their own interest. These pathways can go in all kinds of directions. 

Many adults today are living by other peoples pathways, in jobs, for example, they don’t enjoy because they don’t match their passions. By supporting our children to follow their own play, we believe we are supporting our children’s future!

Lastly, it’s important to note that it can take time for a child to venture down their play pathway and it is necessary to allow for this. For example, you’ve bought your little one a few farm animals and now they are beginning to build a fence around them, but now its bedtime. Do you clear up? Do you throw all the bits and bobs that look like chaos into the toy basket? Maybe they haven’t finished with their game so give them the opportunity to return to the same toys in the morning and continue with it. Today they are writing a name for the farm. They go to school. When they come home to their creative space this time they are colouring the grass green, with your support and facilitation they are using crayons for the large space and felts for the detail, as they have discussed with you the day before. Perfect!