When Learning Becomes Play

I was playing music on my laptop and my 2 YO was getting upset. He wanted to watch something on my device and he didn’t seem to know how. He could not figure what to do and you could feel his angst. 

Suddenly he pressed the space bar and the music stopped. 
He looked up. 
Repeat action. Music started again. 
His face was lit up. 
He was in control. 
He had regained power in the situation. 



As adults it is easy to feel that children must follow our lead. Our instructions. 
They must do what we ask them to. They must be told. They need to learn what we require of them for ‘we know best‘. 

Unfortunately, when we believe so, we also empty their power buckets, And when their power buckets are empty, they either nod off, seem uninterested or even become defiant. 



Now imagine, they CHOSE TO DO something. They picked up a device, an instrument. They decided what form the play dough would take, which colour the monkey would be…or if we were to simply help them make the banana when they ask us to, and they would then spend their time feeding the dough monkey – the instructional output would be the same. 

They would learn the shapes we want them to, they would recognise the colours and they would use their memory to make connections.  Monkey, like us, need bananas, bananas give them nutrition and food gives us strength to hop and jump. 

The space bar helped me. It also reminded me of how my older child learnt to cycle. 

Years of pestering and he would refuse to give cycling a try. 
I gave up. Gave away my cycle. But when an opportunity came up, I took my friends old cycle and kept it outside the door. Maybe someday I thought but in my head I had given up. Within a few months, however, he had taught himself to ride. 
Practising in the corridor, falling down multiple times and figuring what he was doing wrong, all by himself, till he was flying through, even doing stunts on the cycle! 

The power struggle had taken a back seat. The angst had gone. 
The need to learn was his and therefore there was joy and ownership.  

I now don’t decide what to teach my little one. I am in no hurry to school him. I don’t worry what the lesson is going to be or if there will be one today. I leave my child’s material accessible to him, even if it seems like a clutter around me. 
Would you be surprised if I told you my child calls me all the time to “come mama, siit. Toys.”


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