One Activity at a Time. . .
This method of play is so basic and simple, yet so fundamental to your child’s creative and cognitive development. It goes like this: stick with one activity until your child is done exploring the possibilities.
You’re sitting on the floor playing with wooden blocks, for example. You’re building something and your child is building something, or you’re working on something together. You’re sure to praise your child’s efforts and ask questions periodically (‘Wow, I really like that tower. Does anybody live in it?’) Ten minutes later because you want to see your child “really” excited by something, you pull out the busy body bumble-bee puppet and start whizzing it around. It just doesn’t make sense.
When your child is playing, the whole idea is to give her a safe, comfortable way to explore the many possibilities of an object or activity. She’ll build on what she knows, begin to take chances and link aspects of the activity in all kind of ways if you let her. (‘I’m making a path for Grandma’s cat to walk on.’) But that won’t happen if you get bored first and switch activities.
Here’s why you’ll get bored before your child: if you stick with one activity at a time and practice quality playtime on a daily basis, your child’s attention span will quickly grow. She’ll stay interested in an activity longer than you because intrinsic rewards are registering as she learns and invents, and that’s fun and fulfilling. She’ll fall into the habit of wanting to complete a certain way of doing or looking at something, no matter how long it takes. You, on the other hand, are likely to find your child’s activities highly repetitive and uninteresting.
My advice: tough it out. Stay with one activity long enough to let your child invent and connect a variety of situations on her own terms. When she’s finished, she’ll let you know. In the meantime, her habit of pursuing something to the end will strengthen her capacity to play by herself. More importantly, her cognitive tenacity and confidence in her own abilities will develop into life-long learning skills.
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