Have you ever wondered what would happen if you let your child loose in a pile of recycled materials without rules or instructions? Throw in a couple of rolls of duct tape, masking tape, scotch tape, a few markers, and maybe some scissors.
Too often these days we are rushing from activity to activity, with tight schedules between daycare and after school to get to sports, music lessons, or play dates. More time than ever before is spent in transportation to and from all the places we need to be.
There is a lot of structure to being a child in the modern world. It can seem in a child’s eyes that they are too often told what to do, perhaps even how to do it. In our mission to make sure we provide the best we can for our kids, sometimes we miss out on opportunities for them to just be kids, to create in their own way, to learn about their world with their own two hands.
A great way to keep kids happy and focused for a long period of time is to give them the opportunity for free play. No rules or instructions, just a whole lot of loose parts. Recycle bins in your home are a great place to start. Anything that is not dangerous is free game. Leftover fabric, yarn, wool, wrapping paper – you cannot get a lower cost activity than this. My kids and their friends build amazing towers, leprechaun traps, hamster mazes, fairy homes, bridges, even an island oasis and toys with working parts, vending machines and clocks. I love that they come up with so many ideas on their own. If your home is like mine, there is never a shortage of supplies. My daughter is always declaring which box, container or paper is for her, “save this for me mom, this would make a great…!”
There are far more benefits than just to provide the kids with an activity to keep them busy: they develop hand eye coordination, practice print skills (if they use markers to draw), maybe learn about gravity or how to balance things, and develop motor skills both large and small to name a few. The creative process builds executive function and promotes physical and spatial development. They have to visualize, plan ahead, and learn the process of outcomes and the consequences of each action. There are numerous other benefits but the most important is the fun they have! I also enjoy a keen glimpse at what interests my child.
You might itch to help out. With your experience you clearly know better, but let them learn from their own experience. Let them feel disappointment when their tower breaks or their bridge won’t hold weight. They learn from their own successes and the accomplishments they achieve are truly their own.
To tie in a few great books with this activity, visit your local library and look for:
Not A Box by Antoinette Portis
Not A Stick by Antoinette Portis
The Dot by Peter H Reynolds
Ish by Peter H Reynolds
Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
Boy and Bot by Ame Dyckman