permission to play

I have spent my adult life in the company of children: as a mother, as a teacher, and as a researcher in the science of play.

I don’t think I would have defined what I was doing during my career as play, but as I look back at the most joyful moments of my teaching and mothering (both spanning more than 25 years!) I see that happy inquiry really has been at the heart of it, even the more serious and scholarly aspects.

I was blessed to have my third child in my forties and it has shifted much of what I thought I knew about education and cemented other theories. Montessori taught that her teachers should observe students objectively like scientists, and that is what I have done with my daughter, even taking notes(very informally, mostly on the notepad of my iphone) so that I can go back and compare what I see.

She is 8 now, and her learning includes teaching her stuffed animals, having pop up shops in the living room, making food for her play kitchen with her dad out of wood and learning how to use tools in the process. I try my best (and fail at times) to follow this natural inclination and curiosity in our home school lessons.

During the past year, my husband and I worked to transform a greasy old tool shed in the back yard into a small art studio. It has been enormous fun and really is such a cheerful space. I began holding children’s art classes there last fall, both as a way to contribute to the family income and a means to do what I love: give children the tools to create.

But there is a third reason, and this one might be primary. I suspect that one some level I needed to start this business to give myself permission to play. I love creating, but sometimes have felt more comfortable in the role of an art facilitator than an artist. And often we adults have a hard time allowing ourselves the freedom to do something simply because we love it. Enter the art studio.

There is a huge body of research on play and its benefits to the brain but I won’t wax scientific right now. If you are interested in seeing some resources, however, you might check out the goldmine website The Strong: The National Museum of Play.

I will close with a couple of quotes by greater minds than mine on the subject:

“Play is the answer to how anything new comes about.” ~ Jean Piaget

” We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.” ~George Bernard Shaw

Have a playful day, friends.


7 thoughts on “permission to play”

  1. I’m homeschooling my two children and have discovered that my daughter really learns better by play instead of trying to teach her like we are in a sit down classroom. I have had to take myself out of the mindset that homeschooling is like traditional school.
    It doesn’t have to be learning so much in a certain amount of time. She can learn at her own pace and not have to worry she isn’t “keeping up” in some way.


    1. This is so true, Lisa and one reason I love homeschooling because it is much easier to observe how your child learns in an atmosphere of support. Thank you for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We all learn better when we are enjoying what we are doing. Adults can tend to take learning too seriously – and I include myself in that! Thanks for the reminder to play.


  3. When my son hit kindergarten and we began homeschooling (he is #3 in the line) I had to completely rethink what homeschooling would be like. He was a hands on learner, a late reader (which scared me) and to this day (at 19) just needs to figure it out himself, when he is ready.
    Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. My kids all did well with this mindset of playing as they learned. Much of it outside and in books they love! Thanks for sharing! Have fun!


  4. Thank you so much for sharing this Susan. I wish I had internalized the play message more as a younger mother and teacher, but I am glad that I know it now. All three of my kids are so different with variant learning styles. I think play offers so much in the way of natural problem solving. I love your insight about your son.


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