Living Stones Academy

Educating by atmosphere, discipline, and life

Let fun be fun

on March 8, 2016

System leads Nature: assists, supplements, rushes in to undertake those very tasks which Nature has made her own since the world was. Does Nature endow every young thing, child or kitten, with a wonderful capacity for inventive play? Nay, but, says System, I can help here; I will invent games for the child and help his plays, and make more use of this power of his than unaided Nature knows how. So Dame System teaches the child to play, and he enjoys it; but, alas, there is no play in him, no initiative, when he is left to himself; and so on, all along the lines. System is fussy and zealous and produces enormous results––in the teacher!—Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children

“Help his plays.” “Invent games.” It is interesting to me that this was written over 100 years ago. Before comic books, which gave way to video games, which have taken on a life of their own. Before televisions and smart phones and tablets. Yet even then, this was a danger–creating fun for children instead of letting them make fun.

I constantly read comments from parents (and I’ve done it myself in the past, pre-Charlotte Mason) asking for help with entertainment that is educational. Can anyone recommend educational cartoons? What board games can I let my children play that will teach them . . . ? What are your favorite educational apps and games for tablets? What can my kids do outside that will teach them . . . .?

It’s bothered me for a while now. I feel almost burdened. Often the parents will be sad because their child just plays chess, or only plays solitaire on the tablet, or only watches “My Little Pony” (yes, that is played in my house regularly). Or they want to give their child books that are educational–they only allow Magic Treehouse, for example.

I like the phrase “System is fussy”. Seriously, how much fussier can we be? Let fun be fun. Let’s stop looking down on it. Let the child go outside and just play. The exercise, personal exploration, and just freedom of doing something on his or her own is more beneficial than all the games we could invent.

If you want outdoor play to be educational, engage in nature study at least once a week. Teach your child to be observant. Then step back. Like most things, I’m imperfect when it comes to nature study but we have been practicing it since my oldest (who is now 11) was 5 years old. The result? I’ll hear them all running in the back, screaming, having a good time, then at least 3 of them will run in with, “Mommy, we saw a spider and it had a caterpillar!” Then they’ll spend the next half hour happily observing and discussing, taking Kindle Fires out and snapping pictures or video, proudly showing their work, then later they’ll get out paper and colored pencils and draw what they saw. All I did was teach them to notice. They, and Nature, did the rest.

You don’t have to purposefully choose “educational” games. I get annoyed almost by the number of new games I see coming out in the stores, all boasting to teach more and help your child more. While there is nothing wrong with games that are purposefully educational (and I admit to having a few), I think we get some idea in our minds that unless it is labeled such, it’s not. Let them play Monopoly–they learn strategy and math. Let them play Checkers and Chess–nothing is more mathematical than a game of chess, plus it teaches them to slow down and think about what they are going to do. Let them play Battleship. Let them play some electronic Star Wars. . . thing (my 6yo bought one for himself with his birthday money; I have yet to play it with him but man, it’s noisy). Let them put together puzzles with pictures of TinkerBell. Give them packs of playing cards and teach them all the card games you can think of. Let fun be fun.

The same goes for video games. While we should limit screen time, or use it as a reward only, we shouldn’t look at all video games as useless or mindless. Avoid the fully violent ones. But most video games teach careful thinking, strategy, quick reaction time, calculation, and all without trying. A study was conducted and published in Bicycle magazine a few years ago, in which gamers were pitted against avid road cyclists on an obstacle course. The gamers actually had quicker reaction time than the cyclists. They weren’t as athletic, but they were used to making split second decisions when it came to obstacles . . .all because of their video games. Weird and funny, but true. So you just never know what your child will benefit from. I actually made my now-9yo play “Where’s My Water”, because he’s always been a little manic, and would deliberately lose on video games because he thought the consequence was funny. But in this, nothing funny happened if he didn’t slow down and do it right. At first he was frustrated, and wanted me to do it for him. No way, kid. I gave him pointers, and told him how to think it through. That’s it. Eventually he had it mastered. And it taught him to take time and think. Something I’d had trouble–and sometimes still do–teaching him.

Let fun be fun. Don’t look down on it, or think you have to add to it. Let the initiative come from the child. When they say, “I’m bored”, it really is not your job to make him or her not bored. (Bad grammar, sorry) It IS your job to equip your children with the tools to help them make their own fun. But those tools aren’t more distractions. Teach them to notice. To slow down. To appreciate. To think for themselves. Then watch them learn while you sit back and do nothing . . . .

or the dishes.


2 responses to “Let fun be fun

  1. Rebecca says:

    This couldn’t be more timely Tanya. Our family recently bought our first out home since we left California. And as you know the process of packing and moving is a living and consuming organism, a beast more like it. The process forced me more so than my children to get them to make-do for themselves. It goes hand in hand with the increased responsibility they’ll have with the additional land we’ve acquired. Mom & Dad simply cannot do for them what they can do better for themselves. I’ve witnessed the hours of entertainment that comes from sticks stripped off of trees and excavated rocks out of the yard. And the few days moving in without Internet connection, etc. were the most inventive. Thankfully, our kids extend their video game experience into dramatic role playing with each other when their timers are up. It is good to be reminded of these things because truly the (bad) habits start with us. Thanks for your thoughts out loud. Love and miss you!

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