When my kids were young, I would direct their attention toward nature, building blocks, art supplies, etc to keep little hands busy. We also took trips to the zoo, the park, science museum and gardens. At home, I would place materials out for them to play with and and use. It was a very natural way to learn through play and to keep minds engaged.
There are lots of blogs and instagram accounts geared toward early childhood along with popular tags such as #invitationtoplay, #inviationtomake, #invitationtocreate, and #learningthroughplay which depict beautiful playrooms and materials to engage young children. I love to looking at the images and the ways educators and parents use materials to entice young kids to play and learn. I am also sad when I look through these images as I see that my time for #invitationstoplay is passing. My kids are older. Next year I will have two middle schoolers and a second grader.
My older son enjoys working with the Lego Mindstorm robot and writing code for it. Robotics, stop motion animation movies and playing video games are his play. His knowledge of apps, coding, and technology have surpassed mine. I am a digital immigrant. A digital immigrant (who by the way, is anyone over the age of 30 in the U.S.) means being new to the digital culture, “not knowing or understanding the nuances on which a culture is built” (Cross, 2011, p.148). I am outsider when it comes to technology. My son leads his own tech based play and is guiding his little brother’s play too.
My daughter is eleven and she has always been a maker and a “do-it-myself” kinda girl. She looks to Youtube for DIY tutorials for what interests her. When she was younger, she asked me to teach her how to crochet. I was barely able to remember how and showed her how to chain stitch and double crochet, but that doesn’t make anything cool. She turned to Youtube and learned to crochet. She learned to make granny squares, cute Amigurumi animals and super cute donuts!
As I write this post, I realize that my role in their learning and play has changed but that does not necessarily need to be a sad occurrence. There are outings my husband and I can do with the kids that are enjoyable for us too. For example, since my son is a stop-motion fan, my husband took him to see Isle of Dogs. They had a great time together. I may not be leading their learning or play anymore but I can continue to encourage and support their interests.
Cross, Tracy L., (2011). On the Social and Emotional Lives of Gifted Children: Understanding and Guiding Their Development. Waco, TX. Prurock Press Inc.