What is the purpose of us playing with our children?

One of the ways in which we can support our children’s interests is by joining them in their games. If that seems like a big divide to cross then you can read more here about how to play with your children.

Living an unschooling life is about more than allowing our children to do what they want. It is our responsibility to facilitate their learning and one way that we can get to know our children and how best to help them is by playing with them.

Joining our children in their chosen activity primarily gives opportunity for us to connect with them and strengthen our relationships as we delve into shared experiences. You will learn more about your own children, what sparks their interest and what they find engaging in the activity they are doing. You will be able to observe from their perspective what they are discovering in each game and share in the learning connections that they make. Mostly, I hope, that you will become submerged in the act of play with your children and experience an extended moment of delight and togetherness.

Learning is a natural consequence of play. One of the things that children learn through their play with others is social negotiations. For a game to be successful amongst peers then all of the participants must agree on the ‘rules.’ It is the same when we join in with our children’s play. We must resist the temptation to take over the game or control the play. Just like their peers, we may offer suggestions but the continuation of the activity must be in agreement between all participants. This can be seen as a rehearsal for real life situations in which problem solving and negotiating are important and valuable skills. One of the consequences of us joining in play with our children is using these skills and gaining each others trust through practicing together in a safe situation.

Sometimes our children don’t want us to play and so we must be content with observing or even allowing them space with their peers to play unhindered. Being present for our children is as valuable and supportive as being fully engaged. Having the reassurance of our availability often allows our children to extend themselves into new spheres secure in the knowledge that we are at hand if they need us.

It might help in the early days of your unschooling journey to keep a journal of activities that your children enjoy and the things that you observe about your children and their play and possible learning. After time you might be able to look back and find connections between their activities and understand where different learning pathways led. This can serve to encourage you as you continue moving forward in your unschooling life.

Learning is a natural consequence of play and we may occasionally catch glimpses of some of the learning taking place but mostly it is a deep and hidden work that occurs subconsciously. We must step back and acknowledge that important learning experiences come in many forms, that not everything is visibly educational and it is not our responsibility to make it so. The purpose of us playing with our children is to get to know them better and not to sabotage their play with our own agenda.

Read more

Play is…

What if my children play all day?

If my children are playing, what do I do?

Published by heiditsteel

Teacher turned Unschooler: passionate about autonomous education and supporting our children's natural inclination towards learning through play.

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