Messy play as the little people would do it!
“When life gives you rainy days, wear cute boots and jump in the puddles” – Anonymous
What drew me to this quote was the fact that this is something our babies do each day, something that comes from within and something they do not need to learn. As children they know how to take every moment as it comes and seize the day and make it their own.
For a while now, I have been observing my babies and how they react to and engage in messy play. Two things stand out from their play:
They make do with what they can find- as educators, we constantly have conversations about invitations to play, using toys in an innovative manner and the emphasis on creating play spaces that children find exciting and interesting. A close observation of the invitation to play, courtesy mother nature which can be a mud pit filled with water, a big pile of slushy mud, wet sand, a little pool in the bark has shown that children don’t really need a lot to keep them happy. Children are just happy as long as they can play.
They seem to enter a world of their own and enjoy the space for what it is- children’s play can often be complicated by adults and how we view the intricacies of play. With children, there is a sense of wild abandon in their play, one that comes with truly enjoying what they are doing even if it means doing it repeatedly, there was a sense of peace and calm about their play, which was very fascinating for me to watch. It almost felt like they were enveloped in a bubble and what happened outside of that bubble did not seem to affect them too much.
Here is an account of what happened on the really rainy day and a very wet, water logged mud pit:
The mud pit was filled with water and overflowing on the sides, creating a little pool of water and soft mud all around its edges. The older children were shouting, jumping in glee and were very vocal about their excitement with the mud pit. The little people on the other hand, stood at a distance, watching and taking it all in, their eyes curious, wide and somewhat awe struck. Once the excitement had died down a notch, slowly the little people made their way to the mud pit, tentatively placing one foot in and then the other, letting the water run up their legs, and slowly soak up their pants. The sensations led to two reactions: a little shiver followed by a smile as the cold water hit the skin or a little shriek and laughter that meant something exciting was to follow.
As time went by, the number of children in the mud pit kept varying with the little people wanting a little break from the wetness but what did not change was their approach to play. Each time, they would wander in casually, carefully step in, look around to check what toys they wished to use, sometimes use no toys and resort to using their hands and fingers to explore and try and catch water, plonk themselves in the mud pit and do their own thing.
There was something very calming and therapeutic about this sight, something that stopped me from joining in, I did not say a word, did not ask any questions, did not provide any directions to aid play, all I did was sit, watch and take it all in. It felt like time had come to a stand still and everything around me had dimmed down, I couldn’t hear the noise anymore or feel the mounting pressure of routines or feel bad about sitting and watching and doing pretty much nothing. I felt a twinge of envy and the urge to want to be able to do that and feel that zen like moment in my adult life.
Sometimes moments like these can be your best teacher, that moment taught me to learn from my little people and learn by merely watching them. The essence of being a child came to the fore and hit me in the face with a force that was quite amazing. As an educator, I feel like my biggest moments of satisfaction involve watching the children play as they show you what they truly are and what they are made of. We always talk about how learning is a two way street, that day I truly learnt, learnt to play, learnt to watch, learnt to be a part of my children’s day without influencing their choices and play, learnt to keep my eyes and mind wide open, learnt to let go, let them be and let them do what brings them inner joy. That day I learnt to set the child in me free, because we can never truly teach and never truly learn till we have the mind and heart of a child!
Lead Educator, Springfield