When I came home the other day my five-year-old approached me immediately and with a focused urgency. He had no time to waste.
Bolstering a sizable orange at the end of his outstretched arm he asked, “Daddy, is this an orange?”
No greeting, no hug, just the question.
As I mentioned, it was an orange, and for that reason I answered, “It sure is Bud.”
Off he went.
I didn’t think much of it. Goofiness runs deep in our family. Here he was being goofy, par for the course.
No sooner did I drop my keys and loosen my tie when he was standing in front of me again, with a different orange at the end of the same outstretched arm. Different orange; same arm.
Now I began to wonder. Not so much about what he was up to, but how much effort it would take to clean up after this exploration.
“Daddy,” he asked again, “is this an orange?”
“It sure is, Bud.” My brow was furrowed at this point. He smiled. I smiled (on the outside at first, and subsequently on the inside, realizing that regardless of the insuring mess, this could be a moment that might become a cherished memory, and I sure do love those moments).
This time I shadowed the big guy into our kitchen, where sure enough I found subjugated orange parts strewn about the island countertop, encircling a small plastic cup with maybe a quarter once of juice inside it, and possibly two or three ounces under and nearby it.
Now, his smile was huge; super proud juicer in action.
He looked up and shouted, “Fresh-made orange juice…just ten dollars!”
I am a sucker for fresh-made orange juice, but that price was outrageous!
He enlisted the help of his two-year-old brother for sales while his seven-year-old brother and his three-year-old sister ran upstairs to get their piggy banks.
Over the course of the next two hours, the fresh-made, real-world play was energized and stimulating. After very quickly running out of fresh-made orange juice (little brother was thirsty) the team decided to fill what seemed to be about dozen cups with fresh-made water; much more accessible.
It went for ten dollars without a straw and eleven dollars with a straw. Ice was complimentary.
When the fresh made water well ran dry they turned to toys, buy on get one free. What seem to be hundreds of them laid out on various surfaces around the living room.
My daughter took advantage of this outstanding opportunity by filling a partially empty diaper box with sale items, digging her way underneath them, and working hard for some time to close herself and her bounty in the box. She wasn’t playing with the toys; she was playing WITH the toys. It was a spectacularly interesting sight to see. She’s strong willed; get’s it from her mother; serves them both well.
Our little big guy found a dragon puppet and set off engaged in a ventriloquist-style conversation for the remainder of the evening.
The school-age brothers worked hard at keeping shop. They even drew about and wrote about the experience, creating marketing pieces and making business plans. It was an engaging, fun, thinking and learning experience for each one of these kids ranging from two to seven-years old (not to mention me at forty three).
I realized, as I do each time I support and celebrate fresh-made, real-world creative play, that kids love it. Even fifteen minutes after bedtime routines were supposed to begin they were crying for more. I had to drag them upstairs kicking and screaming.
At no time did they talk about or ask for television or any device, and at no point did they disengage or complain of being bored.
So, in reflection I developed a set of very simple rules for adults interested in encouraging fresh-made real-world creative play:
- Listen & respond
- Celebrate, encourage, participate, & enjoy
- Extend & integrate
At home or at school, fresh-made, real-world creative play initiated on the foundation of kids’ interests can be exciting and meaningful, it can promote thinking, doing, and learning across subject matter and curricular areas, it can provide kids with hours of fun, social, and enriching opportunities, and by the way…no screen is required.
In conclusion, I’m going double entendre by once again suggesting: Fresh-Made, Real-World Creative Play Rules!
Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.