It is vitally important to support and encourage self-directed activities by the infant and young child. Even if those activities appear meaningless to us , they can have great purpose and significance for the child.
–The Power of Play (David Elkind, Ph.D.)
“It’s stuck in the hill,” my three-year old said. He had buried a small ball with rocks and could not believe it was gone. He was enthused with himself about how it could disappear and how he could have hidden it. Liam wanted me to realize it was now gone. I watched Liam as I was sitting, I had just previously read the above passage in the book The Power of Play. So, as Liam self-directed his play, I watched to see where he was going with it. What was going on in his three-year old mind? Why hide the ball and what was his point of burying it with rocks? What was he trying to figure out. Before reading the above passage, the thought of the organized process a child goes through when they are playing never occurred to me. A simple belief that a child is entertained, they are enjoying something was all that was needed to satisfy a reasoning for play. Much of the time as an adult, as a parent, I see my kids playing. I know they are playing, they seem to be having fun. I know that play is an important part of growth though I never realized the great power and purpose it has for a child.
As the passage continued in The Power of Play, Dr. Elkind further suggests that:
1)These activities are not random and have a pattern and organization
2)Allowing time and freedom to complete these activities to her personal satisfaction nourishes that child’s powers of concentration and attention
3)An infant or young child can spend a long time on an activity in which she is deeply immersed
4) Run the risk of impairing these powers if we don’t respect and value the young child’s self-initiated activity
As I read this, I thought back to my childhood and what processes I might have been thinking about while being engaged in play. I thought of the world that I imagined existed for those who were older than me. My play was a way to understand the unknown. I hadn’t come to that conclusion before.
As a child, what was Liam doing with the buried ball and pile of rocks? He was creating! He was creating a game and he wanted me to participate in a game that he created. He was happy, proud and excited to share it with me. He had taken initiative and he had met his goal.