I mentioned earlier that I spent time this week in a Waldorf kindergarten. The school was offering it’s space for open play during the summer vacation. There was no structure, as it was a drop in session.
This week I have been reflecting on watching the children play together in that space. It reminded me of the importance of “free play” for children. I have noticed in preschools that all to quickly the time can be filled up with structured activities which, although probably wonderful, prevent the children from having time to really engage in imaginative play.
I have been working hard this past year to try and get the balance right, and of course the needs also change as the children enter new developmental stages!
I have learned the importance of rhythm and routine, and have developed a daily rhythm which seems to work well for us. I was deeply influenced by the rhythm of Waldorf schools, where there is time for breath out (active play, time outside etc) and breath in (coming together in circle time, storytelling, snack etc). Finding this balance has created a calming structure to our day.
As part of this structure we have two sessions within the morning in which the children have the opportunity for “free” play. A time in which they cane explore their imagination.
However, I am also so inspired by the schools of Reggio Emelia and love to see the children engaged in exploration and collaborative projects. Sometimes it is oh so hard to allow the children to partake in imaginative play rather than coerce them to explore a project or material that I am so excited about!
I will be honest. It is pretty disappointing when I “get it wrong”, i.e. thinking they are interested in something, spending a long time preparing materials to explore that interest further, and then find that the children would rather play with the dolls!
I try to document their imaginative play as I find that this reminds me, when i am sorting through photos at the end of the week, of it’s importance in the children’s development. And, by simply providing the children with time, space, and materials to explore their imaginations, I am actually providing them with so much.