This post is part of the #PetitsFilousPlayFree campaign.
When did you last feel able to really let go? To forget those concerns about work, the state of the house, or those mountains of laundry? For me it was when we were on holiday in the Dordogne. We stayed in a relative’s wifi-free gîte, with nothing other than a swimming pool, the garden and a few colouring books to entertain us. And we played. By the end of the week I felt as though someone had taken all those tired, gnarly tangles in my brain, and rewired them into a smooth circuit.
That was the effect free play had on me – so I can see why experts say it’s critical for a child’s development.
Petits Filous have launched a campaign to highlight how important it is to let children play free, without a set structure, or goals set by adults. With the help of childcare expert Anita Cleare, they’ve challenged me and other BritMums bloggers to Let Them Be Bored – to hide the tablets, phones and other gadgets that help us through those moments when the kids are clamouring to be entertained. The idea is to let the children take the lead – using resources and space that we provide, but without us setting the agenda, or joining in unless asked. Petits Filous haven’t gone so far as to ask us to chuck out our TVs – but, reading between the lines, that might be helpful…..
“So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away”
(Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
Putting play first
And I’m up for the challenge. It’s not always easy to go through the pain threshold of Gwen and Austin’s whines that they’re bored. Switching on the TV, or launching them into an activity is a quick fix, and it’s tempting to do that to stop the whinging. But when I’ve turned away from technology and – in the words of Play England – let them choose “what they want to do, how they want to do it and when they want to stop and try something else“, we’ve all ended up a lot happier for it. Ok, it’s difficult to trust that letting the kids play, with no structure, rules or iPad to help, will result in anything other than messy chaos, and possibly tears. But it works. As Anita Cleare points out, “even short bursts of playfulness can bring huge rewards in terms of building a relationship with your child, enjoying each other’s company and breaking down barriers.”
“Life is more fun if you play games”
(Roald Dahl, My Uncle Oswald)
And play is good for the whole family, not just the kids. The times when I’ve just let myself go along with the kids’ flow, it’s felt a bit like being back on holiday – or those childhood days, when I used to roam around on a Welsh mountain, playing hide and seek in the bracken, and looking out for winberries to pick. Play helps bring about the state of mindfulness that everyone agrees is beneficial: being present in the moment, and feeling that flow of pure enjoyment. This enjoyment has the knock-on effect of boosting physical development, creativity, brain development and social skills. What could be a bigger parenting priority than that?
Don’t sweat the small things
Petits Filous’ campaign video shows a girl jumping in a puddle – with the muddy water splashing all over her clothes, and even onto her face. For a moment she looks a little worried. Her clothes are dirty and wet. Will she get into trouble? But then the two adults leap into the puddle with her, jumping and laughing. The girl’s learned a valuable lesson about cause and effect. And the muddy water will all come out in the wash.
I love this message about priorities. What will the people in the video remember in ten years’ time? The muddy clothes that needed washing, or the fun they all had together?
Petits Filous; learning Cause & Effect
Play? Or a valuable lesson in Cause & Effect? We love how the joy of play also comes with so many learning opportunities for our little ones #petitsfilousplayfreePosted by Petits Filous on Saturday, 13 January 2018
We had plenty of sunshine in the Dordogne. But everyday life in the UK isn’t like that. Nature can need a bit of a helping hand when it comes to giving children the vitamin D they need for healthy bones – especially in the winter months. Unlike some other yoghurts and fromages frais, Petits Filous is fortified with vitamin D. One pot contains a whopping 50% of the recommended daily allowance. My two have always enjoyed the delicious snack – I might even have snaffled the odd helping myself (less than 100 calories, you know…..). The little pots are perfectly sized for small hands and tummies. Petits Filous comes in pouches too, which don’t need spoons. They can safely be kept out of the fridge for up to five hours, making packing for a day of play all the more easy.
Here’s hoping we come through the whinge barrier, intact and with a whole load of fun to show for it.
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You might also be interested to read my feature on how to work from home with kids.