Telling kids how to play?? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 20 Old 08-03-2002, 06:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I guess I was just wondering how you play with your kids. I have been getting a bit annoyed at family and friends for 'telling' my son how to play with things. In my opinion they are his toys he should play with them however he wants (as long as it not destructive!) and there really is not 'right' way to play with things. Am I totally off base???

For example - if my son is playing with his little farm set and wants to put the animales in their spots I will only help him if he askes or looks frustrated - then I ask if he wants help first. But usually he will just get them in however he can and wherever he can. I don't tell him 'sorry honey the cow dosen't go there' KWIM? He also has a little pool that he likes to play in - he likes to take ALL his outside toys and put them in the pool and then take them out. I don' t know how many times I have heard my MIL or sis tell him that a certain toy dosen't belong in the pool or 'that's not what you do in the pool' WHO CARES???? He like to do this, what's the big deal?

Anyway it is somwhat frustrating for me to sit and listen to them tell him he is not playing the 'right' way - I like that he looks at things differently and finds new and interesting ways to play. And as long as he is not hurting himself or desturcting his toys then why should it matter?

Grace - photographer, wife and mom to 4 great kids (Ethan 5.00, Ainsley 4.02, Owen 12.04, and Ellis Ann 10.07) :
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#2 of 20 Old 08-03-2002, 06:36 PM
 
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This kind of behavior bugs me too. I strongly believe kids need to play their own way without adult interference. They are playing to learn how the world works, not to learn exactly how the Fischer-Price farm set works. Their play is complex and fulfills their needs in ways we can't always understand. Waldorf philosophy sometimes replaces the word "play" with "work" - I do think they are working hard! Besides that, adults who direct children's play just come off as bossy and arrogant to me. One way of directing children's play that really gets on my nerves is when parents constantly force feed facts and quiz kids. For example, holding back a toy until the child names it. Or, once I met a grandmother and her tot grandson at a playground and her version of "playing" with him was to quiz him on the names of all the playground equipment and tease him when he didn't know the name of something. It didn't look fun to me at all, or all that productive. As she left she told me how much she loves to come and "play" there with her grandson that she never sees!
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#3 of 20 Old 08-03-2002, 07:16 PM
 
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If you were checking out a new piece of kitchen equipment for example would you want your dh or kids standing over your shoulder telling you no no it doesn't go that way ?!

Directing their play I find is about power and control over their basic physical actions. Grrrr.
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#4 of 20 Old 08-03-2002, 07:32 PM
 
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Hm... I've had similar thoughts as well. I am of the mind that he can play with his toys any way he wishes (ok, within reason ) and I let him do so. I only jump in when he seems frustrated or he asks for my help in someway.

DH is a bit of a perfectionist and we've been around on this issue a few times. For the most part, he's backed off on this to a large degree but doesn't hesitate in giving unsolicited "advice" to DS here and there. It still bothers me some I admit, but DH put things in perspective for me. He explained that DS has a separate relationship with each of us. Both extremely important to him. I have my way in this regard and DH has his. In other words, he will learn from us both, get something different but equally valuable from us both. It is one of the rare instances where we differ in our parenting and so, I've stopped micro-managing DH on this issue. In short, I think his point is a valid one even if I cringe a bit when he gets a little control-freaky on DS... the fact remains that DS LOVES playing with Daddy. Loves to be by his side working in the garden, mowing the lawn and building something with blocks. And DH has tons of patience with him and that is something as well that I think makes this arrangement work to my liking.

As for other family members, I just try to model the example of how I do things with DS. But it's inevitable, they will try to "guide" him and I try not to let it bother me. He spends the bulk of his time with DH and I and that is who ultimately he will gain his perspectives... a few moments here and there with other family members won't leave the lasting impression that consistent parenting will. I hope??

All the best,

Em

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#5 of 20 Old 08-03-2002, 08:28 PM
 
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I agree, and I dont think it ends with just play. For ex, how many times have people expressed wonder at why I let my dd dress herself (with mix matchings of clothing, gobs of play jewelry, hair bows in the back of the hair instead of the top, ect). They seem to want to inform her of the 'right" way to dress, ect. Or with art, how the sky should be blue, not purple on your painting. I could go on and on. I say just leave them alone! Let kids express their creativity, and figure things out for themselves along the way.
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#6 of 20 Old 08-03-2002, 08:36 PM
 
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Its the people that can do new, unusual things with the tools at their disposal who will discover cures for cancer and AIDS, IMO. Not to mention write really great poetry. Let the little innovators alone! We could all learn something about getting unstuck from our ruts watching our kids play!
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#7 of 20 Old 08-04-2002, 01:01 AM
 
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I was pretty annoyed by a guy at the playground whose 4 yo son stopped at the drinking fountain (which bubbles all the time) to play in the water on the way to the play equipment. The guy kept saying to the boy, "Come on let's go play," and "Stop that and go play." And he wasn't cajoling, he was scolding. He ended up physically removing the kid, then telling him, "no, not that way," when the kid tried to climb over a short wall.
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#8 of 20 Old 08-04-2002, 01:03 AM
 
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I agree that children need time to play in their own creative ways, without interference.

But play is also about learning, so sometimes.......I think adults can help children understand the way the world works witht their toys.

Like with a toy tool set: If a small child has never seen anyone use real tools, then the child will not necessarily know that you can use the wrench to screw in the bolts, and the hammer for the nails, and just what that pretend sander is for. Then an adult plays with the child, and explains all of these things, and not only has the child learned a thing or two, but his play possibilites have been expanded.

But, once the child knows, then the grown-ups should back off, and just let the kid play. Doing things differently is a valuable part of play as well.

So I don't think that kids should only play the way toys are officially intended. That hampers creativity. But I also think it's good for children to know how they were intended.
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#9 of 20 Old 08-04-2002, 01:22 AM
 
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it annoys me too, i have been thinking of ways to say something in a nice way, and I think next time im going to try to say something like: "it makes ds really happy to discover things on his own! I think he is doing x great!"

Any other ideas on what to say?
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#10 of 20 Old 08-04-2002, 01:23 AM
 
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I feel like everyone here has some valid point.

"I am of the mind that he can play with his toys any way he wishes (ok, within reason ) and I let him do so. I only jump in when he seems frustrated or he asks for my help in someway. "

Exactly!

Also isn't checking out the water fountain also useful information in the mind of a four year old. I know I would give my four year old at least a few moments to discover this fascinating device and if I really felt we should move on I would gently persuade him to come along for the next playground adventure. If he strayed to climb over a short wall I would stand back and "allow" him to. He'll soon tire of this and be along with the rest of the family. Right?

Once I've shown my kids how a toy can be used (which only takes moments) I step back and love to watch the variations.

I think some here are perturbed by well-meaning folk who direct the child's hand and when the child doesn't mimic what he's been "taught" begin ostrasizing and saying "oh, no, no. Not that way."

There's more than one way to hold a crayon...Kwim?
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#11 of 20 Old 08-04-2002, 01:43 AM
 
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Dear Luma,

Sometimes I just stand back and allow people to overly interfere with my children's play for a short time and then distract the adult with coffee or food or bring up some topic I know will turn their attention away from the kids. Or I'll offer the kids a snack or something that will rescue them from the situation. If you look at your child's face you will see they are a li'l confused about the adult bullying their play. Redirect the behaviour of the adult. Or distract them. (Yeah, yeah, I know we're talking about "grown-ups" but sometimes it works on them too.) And when this person is over at my place again, I anticipate their interference so I try to be ready for it. (If all else fails I turn on the hokey-pokey and my kids are guaranteed to get up and dance!)
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#12 of 20 Old 08-04-2002, 07:04 PM
 
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Hey Laila, thats a great way to approach it and I think it really would work with the specific relative I have in mind
Thanks!!
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#13 of 20 Old 08-04-2002, 08:48 PM
 
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Reading this thread made me feel a bit sheepish! The only time I tend to micro-manage play is when ds and I are creating a new track on his train table. I get a little too obsessive about using all the cool parts and tying up loose track "ends"... From now on I'll let him be!
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#14 of 20 Old 08-04-2002, 09:28 PM
 
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Hey neat! I've been quoted! Thanks Laila!

Umbrella, I think you grasped much better what I was trying to say. The fact is, DS seems to really enjoy when DH takes time and teaches him something. DH also told me that he truly appreciated when his father did this for him. I think there is something special with fathers and sons in this way and so I'm mostly ok with DH showing DS how to play or do something.

All that aside, I'm sad for the little one who didn't get to play in the water fountain! Indeed, that's learning too! I think sometimes parents can underestimate how interesting something can be to a child and what amazing value there is in letting the exploration process go along unfettered. I think often times it's about continuing to see life through the adult eye rather than that of the childs. I derive no better pleasure than to watch DS take delight in something that in my world is a long gone facination. Time well spent indeed!

Em

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#15 of 20 Old 08-04-2002, 09:39 PM
 
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I find it refreshing to watch how a child will approach a new toy, how they will play with it and how that may vary from what I expect. I never would interfere with play. If I think that they could benefit from understanding how a toy wrench works for eg, I would not stop play to demonstrate, I would find the time to play with them and while playing model its use. If they imitate...fine, if not...fine.
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#16 of 20 Old 08-04-2002, 10:21 PM
 
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Thanks for the acknowledgement, Embee!

I also agree that there is a time and place for everything.

Sometimes it's difficult distinguishing what is going on.

And I don't know if the father being "upset" about his son at the water fountain truly realized how few seconds/moments it would've, could've taken to satisfy the child's curiosity.
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#17 of 20 Old 08-04-2002, 11:38 PM
 
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I am so bad. i am usually the one showing dd that the cow can stand on top of the barn and say cockadoodledo because the pig magician changed all thier voices and that underwear are best worn on heads and that beds really are for jumping and anything that can be dried with a towel belongs in water and . . . . . (someone was repressed as a child )

I try ro keep people from limiting the way the children can play with a toy. That really limits the toys shelf life. Heck if they can get an extra year or two of play out of a toy, yahoo! The only time I iintervene is if they are hurting someone or something with the toy (obviously) or if htere is something cool about the toy they are missing or they ask for help. The more creative they learn to be the more free time I have and the more they play with thier toys the better nalue it was. I try to buy toys that have broader uses than just one or two things. Those seem like they would get boring really fast and I don't think a lot of people realize that once you have done the same thing with a toy 2 or 3 times it is boring. I hate it when i buy something the girls play with a time or two and tire of. what a waste of time and money.

The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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#18 of 20 Old 08-05-2002, 10:44 AM
 
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Or you could have Harry Chapin's song "Flowers are Red" playing on repeat when they are over. That might get it across really subtlely.
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#19 of 20 Old 08-05-2002, 11:02 AM
 
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lol, Irishmommy, I was humming that song reading this thread.
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#20 of 20 Old 08-05-2002, 11:19 AM
 
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DH does that. Makes me nuts.

Though I will interrupt with crayon-holding, because while there is more than one way to hold a crayon, once they get to a certain age and beginning to actually write is a reality, I feel it's better to intercede long before changing the holding position becomes difficult and interferes with writing.

My own neuroses, I guess.

- Amy
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