Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Let children be magical and play!

 



 

With this warm weather and spring around the corner, I am thinking about the magic of play and childhood. Maybe we do not think of this enough for our kids or grandkids. Maybe. I hope I do, but I know I need a refresher now and then. I also want to make sure I remember the magic of childhood and not let it slip by me.

Two weeks ago, in one of my speech classes, the students had to write and deliver a eulogy. It could be for someone they lost or a pet or even an inanimate object. Students are often very clever with their eulogies. Once a student did my eulogy! It took me a minute or so to catch on, but it was very clever. No, I didn’t mind one bit, and it was kind of nice hearing it before it is actually needed! I keep a box of Kleenexes available when we do this. Sometimes I am the only one weeping in class, other times all of us just sit there weeping. One of my very favorite, and saddest, eulogies was a student who was mourning for his lost childhood. This one was different and caught me by surprise. It also sent me to the box of Kleenexes.

Childhood is so short and so fragile and full of magic, if we will encourage it and let it be available to our youngsters. Bruno Bettelheim, child psychologist and author, once said, “Play teaches the child, without his being aware of it, the habits most needed for intellectual growth, such as stick-to-itiveness, which is so important in all learning.”

Probably most of you reading this column grew up with play. The stoops of our houses were always littered with jacks, skates with keys, hula hoops, pogo sticks, doll baby carriages, marbles, and with bikes tossed on the lawn ready for the next adventure. Never did we stay inside. There were a couple of reasons for that. First of all, we loved playing outside. Maybe I should say it stronger, we could barely stay inside. The second reason always did the trick when our mothers said, “If you can’t find something to do, I will find it for you!” How many times did we hear that? Usually, it meant washing dishes or dusting. That alone was enough to send us outside until dark.

While walking to Trine the other rainy day, I noticed the sidewalk full of earthworms. I had to laugh as I gingerly walked around them. When my boys were little, they couldn’t wait for the earthworms to appear. It meant a good day of fishing was upon them. They gathered all of those worms and put them in containers just waiting to go fishing. I am sure their elementary teachers were a bit taken back when they arrived in school with their worms in containers, but they all learned to appreciate and understand them. One day, armed with worms and a sunny day, Aaron declared he was quitting first grade because he had more important things to do. (Fishing was what was most important!) I called his first-grade teacher, Rita Deller, to discuss this with her. She was brilliant. On Monday she told Aaron how much she would miss him if he left school, and all the stories he brought to his classmates. Needless to say, he stayed in school until college graduation.

One of my favorite children’s books was written by Alice McLerran, “Roxaboxen.” In this story the children make up their own little village and stories. If you have kids, I highly recommend this book. I have read it to all the grands and purchased their own copies as well. One day, Jonah came running into my house telling me he had found “Roxaboxen!” I was thrilled of course. He invited me to see it, so we just hopped on our bikes to find this secret place of his. It was, indeed, a perfect “Roxaboxen” right in town.

Bettelheim also says that it is important for us to let children choose their own play. They may even play differently than we might choose, but don’t we choose enough for our children? Let them choose their clothes, their play, their own ideas. Just let them play.

Childhood is so lovely. It should be full of magic and stories and faeries that linger on the lawn at night.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a bit of playing on my own in my backyard.


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  The Trine University Theatre Company on closing night of The Matchmaker.