When you were younger what types of activities did you engage in after
school? As a child I was encouraged to go outside and play with my friends in the
neighborhood. We were often unsupervised by adults. I was aware of the
expectations my parents had of me and would usually abide by these guidelines. We
were free to go to our friends yards, wander through the neighborhood, ride bikes,
play kickball or other games we invented, and to build forts. I have very fond
memories of these afternoons of independence.
I learned many lessons by having this time. The most important was to
take care of my friends and my sisters who often joined the fun. If someone got
hurt it was up to the others to provide aid and comfort. I learned to negotiate and
compromise on game rules and “character play” ( I’ll be the mom, who wants to be
the baby?) I learned how to solve problems and manage spatial relations by building
forts. I figured out how to follow maps and how to be home by supper.
From these unsupervised playtimes I learned that I could navigate my
environment and make friends without the aid of my parents. This was valuable
knowledge that led to self confidence, perseverance, and accomplishment.
When I watch the students on our playground, I observe children that are
developing these skills at different levels. I often try to let them work things out
before I step in to provide solutions. Negotiating the rules of a game, resolving
conflicts, taking on the roles of leadership and working together as a team are some
of the skills they are learning.
I know this is a different time and leaving children unsupervised is not
always wise, however the next time you are watching a group of children play see if
they can work out any issues before you step in to help, you may be surprised by
what they can accomplish!