The Work of Childhood.

I was in the kitchen the other day and wanted Antek to come help me. ‘Can you come a minute?’ I asked. ‘No, sorry. I am busy working. Kalina is working too. Sorry we can’t help you now.’ Antek is three. Kalina is six weeks old. He was building train tracks and she was … well, doing what six-week-old babies do – lying on the floor looking around and smiling. Were they working? Sure they were! (Anna)

‘Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life’ (Confucius)

What is the difference between play and work? Play we do for fun. Work we do because we have to? What about all these people who love what they do for a living? Do we really need to create the boundary between play and work? Wouldn’t life be more fun and more rewarding if we all managed to play for a living?  And if we think of work as something serious… look at our kids at play; look at their incredibly focused faces; consider the time and effort they put into whatever it is they are occupied with at the moment; notice the excitement and enthusiasm – don’t you wish everybody worked like this?

We have talked a lot (a LOT :)) about play, but here is a crazy idea we have not yet discussed – what if we treated our children’s play as their work. How would that change our approach not only to what they do, but also the way we deal with them on a daily basis? Our requests, the way we ask questions, how we approach a diaper change, how we manage transitions…

Don’t disturb me, I’m working!

We hate to be disturbed when working on something, especially something difficult. Everyone is probably the same in a way – so much effort goes into trying to understand and work out the problem at hand, we don’t want to spend any of this precious energy on dealing with others disturbing us, or wanting something from us right now. When writing, if someone interrupts your thought process how do you feel? More often than not, the thought is gone, it may never come back. Grrrr…

Children understand and realize so much, that it still amazes scientists, and there is an incredible amount of work they are doing every day, all day. It might look like nothing much to us, but there is a lot going on when we think they are simply playing with cars.

We want our kids to be creative – developing creativity takes time. A lot of time.

We want our kids to be good learners – they need time to practice undisturbed, develop and test ideas, make hypotheses about the world and have time to test them.

We want our kids to be able to play independently – they need to be allowed to do this over and over again, without our constant interruptions.

We want our children to be able to focus, we want them to develop long attention span – they need time and more time to do this, and the last thing they need are constant interruptions.

When we see someone at work, we don‘t just walk in and talk or even yell from one desk to another.

When we see someone at work and we need something from them we try to:

  • Wait until they are finished before asking a question;
  • Tell them in advance we need something from them, then respect the fact that they need to finish something first;
  • Do not stand looking over their shoulder if they have told us they will be with us in a minute;
  • Do not ask them five times if they’re done yet;
  • Do not expect them to drop everything they are doing immediately and go with us without asking why;
  • Don’t yell what it is we need from behind the door and expect them to listen and follow.

What if we did all this when we approach our children who are… playing? Working?

So again – what if we looked at children’s play as work (which it really is!)? What if they are just observing the ants at work when we think they are just slow and lazy? What if they are right now discovering that this hand above them is their own? What if they are about to finish a piece of art just for you while you are trying to convince them that they need to clean up their room? Doesn‘t it seem fair and right to wait a moment or even walk over and see what is so interesting instead of yelling “Hurry up now?“ Isn‘t it worth that one moment of waiting and quietly asking our baby if you can  pick her up instead of running in, interrupting her play and scooping her up without warning? Is a piece of art made with love not worth much more than a tidy room? Exactly.

Your child doesn‘t need a degree in physics to be a scientist at work :)

What do you think? We would love your opinion!

Anna & Nadine

One thought on “The Work of Childhood.

  1. what a fantastic perspective to put play in context. another thing to add to the list, when I encounter people at work, I help when invited but do not provide it unsolicited. thanks for giving me another analogy. :)

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