When you have a child, the idea of being able to play again could be exciting … For some people toy car racetracks come to mind, for others Barbie and for others still Lego. Some people think “I can finally buy the Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven and understand how it works!” However, when the time comes, we realise that this is also an educational choice. Since we love to play, we can also play with our furniture. We talked to Natalia De Armas, an educator specialised in psychomotor skills.
Natalia, Maria Montessori said that ‘playing is a child’s job’: what does this mean for you?
Playing is the basis of knowledge, because it is the main tool with which children express themselves. From it they begin to understand themselves, others and the world around them. Playing teaches them to learn, to orient themselves in space and time, to manipulate and build, to establish relationships and communicate. But that’s not all. Playing allows them to comprehend and to understand their body in relation to others and the space. It is therefore a privileged and indispensable element for the integral development of the child because it covers all the basic skills: motor, cognitive, emotional and social.
Spending some time during the day playing with an adult, be it parent or another figure like a teacher, a grandparent or another relative, is very important. We know that the fast pace of society has forced us to reduce the time dedicated to shared play, free from distractions like mobile phones, televisions or work, but the adult remains a crucial element. Adults, in fact, have the task of ensuring that the space and the materials used for play are safe, but also that they are educational. On the other hand, children must also learn to play alone, to develop tools and systems to not get bored, without the constant presence of someone to help them.
A feature of our design is the attention to stimuli. But to do so we chose simple materials and forms, not just because they are more sustainable, but also because it seemed to be the most appropriate choice for this purpose. It almost seems to be a contradiction. Perhaps more technological materials could create more stimuli?
The world is in continuous technological evolution, but technology is not strictly necessary for the children, until at least 6 years of age.
Non-figurative games, that give them the space necessary to let their predispositions shine through and to awaken their imagination and creativity, are more appropriate tools. So, simplicity is more than welcome! Besides, we may also remember that when we were children a box could become a car, a plane, a hiding place. A chair or table could become a cave, a house or a train. A book without text, containing only images, could tell a different story for every person that read it.
Very often we believe they need more games, but children can play for hours on end with everyday things. Some seeds, a bit of earth, a pot, a table, a cloth, a rope or the child’s bed itself, are all that’s needed to unleash their creativity and imagination, encouraging their development as a whole.
The use of games and devices where the children are simply spectators if anything produce the opposite effect, as do games that seek to stimulate children to early on. Vibrating bouncers, games with shrill sounds and coloured lights are objects that make the child passive and create addiction. This will make them become bored more quickly without a sound or visual stimulus within reach, and we will have more overweight children with behavioural difficulties, attention deficit disorders and other problems.
Sometimes the constant movement of the child makes parents panic, and they resort to tricks to keep them quiet. That is not always really necessary. Sometimes following their imaginary journeys and becoming swept up in them can also be exciting for adults.
* Natalia has developed her profession in the socio-educational field with children from 0 to 3 years and their families, offering workshops on bonding, play and psychomotor development in contexts of social vulnerability.
He has also worked in the clinical area with children from 2 to 16 years of age with academic, motor, relational and behavioral difficulties and various pathologies such as Down syndrome, corpus callosum agenesis, autism spectrum disorder, etc.