Play is in the Child

I have long agreed with the saying, ‘play is in the child, not the toy’. And after speaking to a friend recently about the importance of truely free, child initiated, non adult led or interrupted play, that same day Little Moo appeard to set out to prove this.

Having recently moved in to our new house, I had not yet sorted out the garden, all of Moo’s outdoor toys and mud kitchen equipment had been literally thrown in to the garden and left to lay where they were, awaiting a dry sunny day for me to venture out and find their new homes.

This particular afternoon Little Moo asked if she could go out to play, so on went the boots and coat and off she went to explore her new garden while I finished tidying the kitchen.

And without any encouragement, prompting, leading, suggestion, or request, Moo began to play uninterrupted for a good half hour to 40 minutes, busy exploring the bits and bobs which littered the garden.

After observing for a little while, I sat quietly and started taking pictures and jotting down what she said. I did this not because I wanted to show off any end product or take pretty pictures, but to demonstrate how children do not need to be taught or shown how to play, to provide documentation to support my strong belief that children play and learn best when left to their own unique and brilliantly creative devices.

The rain had left a puddle of water in the wheel barrow, and after venturing in to the kitchen for a spoon, Moo began to add spoon fulls of sand to the water. Taking time to stir it all around in between.


She then requested my help in turning on the outdoor tap. Once i’d loosened it, she sent me on my way saying she could do it on her own now. She filled the watering can several times over and poured the water in to the wheel barrow and shallow tray, turning the tap off again after each filling.


When the shallow tray was full, Moo lifted it without request for help, and emptied the contents in to the wheel barrow.


The second time Moo spoke to me was to tell me she needed a big bowl, off she went in to the garden to find one.


On her return, she wheeled the wheel barrow over to the bowl and lifted it up and down a few times, watching the water swishing from front to back. She then poured the water in to the big bowl.


Then off she went again for a walk around the garden, and came back with a hand full of grass.


The grass was added to the bowl, along with more spoon and hand fulls of sand.


Her cake was finished, all in an afternoon’s impromptu busy play šŸ™‚

If I wanted to, I could go over this little account of Moo’s independent activity and talk about the skills she’d developed, from fine & gross motor skills to communication & language. But that does not seem important here, after all, whether I write about her learning or not, she’d have still learned from it. For me, the relevance of this post is to prove that play is indeed in the child, not the toy. Children do not need to be taught how to play. No mud kitchen or adult led activity needed to be set up for Moo’s play, discovery & learning to begin or evolve. Children are natural born play workers. An important lesson for us to remember and allow time and space for. Thanks, Little Moo šŸ™‚

Posted by Cheryl


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