Playtime and Endless Imagination

by | Sep 15, 2021 | Essays | 0 comments

Children and their imaginations are two inseparable pairing. I have 3 children with endless imaginations, that they even create a game called “Game Imajinasi“. Basically, Game Imajinasi is whatever adventure/narrative game they create and play around the house using combinations of toys and other stuffs like pillows, blankets, chairs, etc. All I see is a mess, but what they see is a variety of visuals: aliens, dangerous landscape, enemies, gold, gemstones, extra levels and difficulties for the game, the list goes on.

Yes, every time they play (and the playing can be done multiple times a day or last the whole day that I can’t tidy up the stuffs.. the Monica Geller in me wants to scream) the house turns into a mess. A mess I complain about, but also feel thankful for.

Day, Dil, Dza (and me!) have been locked inside the house for nearly two years. I feel sad about the fact that they must loose certain period of time where they should be playing outside with their friends. Every now and then during the pandemic, I took them for cycling, playing in a nearby playground and visiting my parents, but those activities got postponed also since the surge of Delta variant in June. Pandemic holds life as we know it to a pause and we are forced to adjust our routines and activities. For our children, their world must temporarily shrinks before it expands.

Beyond the 2 hours screen time allowance, my 3 children make use of their free time for playing.  They have each other, lots of toys and off course their endless imaginations. Each day is a different kind of Game Imajinasi for them. If they don’t use their time for Game Imajinasi, they use their imaginations for doing other things: making their own Monopoly board game, creating little toys and trinkets out of used bottles and papers, or playing Lego.

At one evening, Day and Dil suddenly became quite. They sat on the floor with papers, pencil and ruler. This went on for the next couple of days. When they eventually finished what they have been doing for several days, Day, Dil and Dza were busy playing in the bedroom. Not much sound I heard, so I checked them out. It turned out that, they were playing Monopoly. The one that Day and Dil have made for several days! The boys made their imaginary country, companies, land, streets, and so on. They had fun playing their self-made Monopoly game.

Dza loves to make small objects from Lego bricks. She also likes to make doodles and trinkets. She uses papers, coloring pencils, and tapes. If we ever run out of tapes at home, we all know who to look for. Once, I saw her being surreptitious inside our home office room. She was wearing one of her princessy dress. The one with fake pearls ornament on the waist line. And she held a scissors with her. I tried to look but she shooed me away. Later on, when she went into my bedroom to take a nap, she asked me to look at her ears. Dza has always been fascinated with crystals, pearls, anything that shines. She used to say, “Mami looks pretty wearing earrings. I can’t wear one.” The piercing on both of her ears have been closed and I often caught her staring at my dangling earrings with such longing on her face.

I looked at her ears. A pair of fake pearl earrings were dangling there. The earrings were held together using a pink post it paper and small thread.

Two weeks ago, I called my children to gather for lunch. It was after school hours. Day and Dza were downstairs watching TV while Dil was alone. He was on the floor, busy with his Lego. “Why are you alone? Did you have a fight with your siblings?” I asked. “No, I just want to be here. Doing this,” he answered as he continued to built his Lego. He still sat on the floor when Day, Dza, and I have already seated at the table.

“Dil, come on. Let’s have lunch. We’re waiting for you onlyyy,” I asked him.

“Wait Mami, let me finish,” he answered.

A couple of minutes later, I saw a windmill made from Lego bricks. “Look Mami, it spins!” Dil exclaimed as he demonstrated the windmill vanes spinning.

My husband once taught Day and Dil to play the computer game Age of Empire. Through the game, Day found his fascination towards trebuchet. He browsed about it (the history and how it was built, etc) during school’s break time and he built it using Lego. It was a project that went on for weeks. The trebuchet has undergone many changes and adjustments, and sometimes rebuilt (because accidentally my husband  tripped on it, or I knocked it down while mopping the floor). Eventually the trebuchet was finished: it could hurl little projectile balls. Day, Dil and Dza made a war game using their individually built Lego and off course, the trebuchet.

Playtime, Imagination, and Children Development

There are times when Day, Dil and Dza express their feelings. They miss their friends. They miss running around the schoolyard. They miss swimming in the pool. They miss the playgrounds. Dza misses her kindergarten bestfriend and she wants to make new friends too.

This period is an exercise of character building for Day, Dil and Dza. Boxed in a circumstance they have no freedom to run out of, gradually they make the best out of it. Wing it. Inadvertently, they learn how to be resilient. Resilience, in psychological term is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, how one can bounce back from difficulties (Source). Being at home 24/7 for nearly two years, unable to go out for some fun time, they create their own fun time and bring the boredom to a halt using their imaginations. There are times when they seem to be running out of ideas. At first, they whine… but slowly the whining stops. I often find them sitting down together, having a discussion — and sometimes arguments — over what to do next, what kind of games they want to create, etc.

Without them knowing, this whole time, they also learn to communicate better,  to reason and to solve problems with a win-win solution. They also learn to deal with their emotions while playing and how to manage those emotions so that they can continue playing together. Adapting with circumstances is also one thing they surely learn (well, this one is inline with resilience). Dza, as the youngest, must adapt with the speed and wit (and sometimes strengths) of her older brothers. They bond more through playing although sometimes the younger two tend to side together against their oldest brother. Hahaha. Dil is the one who used to be hard to work together with. He used to be too dependent on Day. Through play, gradually he steps into the role of a leading older brother to Dza. He learns to guide and to be protective toward his sister and to advocate for himself, thus becomes more and more independent.

Ultimately, from what I see, Day, Dil, and Dza hone their creativity through play. Creativity is a versatile skill. It keeps your brain ticking, always searching for new ideas and things to do. It also helps one to see things from multiple angle. Helps you out when you are cornered.

 

A research journal on pediatrics I read stated that play, is an integral part in children’s development. As adults, we may see it merely as it is: children playing (and turning the house into a mess… admit it). Often time we forget that playing, for them, is also a form of learning process. Through play, children can learn and experiments on new things, on making their ideas coming true, on trying out many roles, on figuring out their interests and passion, what they dislike or discomfort with, and many more… without really having to face serious real life consequences.

The learning results and the character children build through play in their childhood, are valuable savings that can shape their adult self. As parents, letting our children play (and we play along with them) provide us a vantage point to see inside them: how they think and feel, what tick them, how fast are their pace in keeping up with circumstances surrounding them, etc. It enables us to communicate better with our children, since we’ve seen them through. It doesn’t hurt either that us parents tagging along in our children’s play make them feel cared for… that we pay attention to them instead of merely shooing them away to do other things.

Yes, the house may be a mess.

Yes, we must whine about the messy house (especially stay at home Moms who have to deal with this 24/7, in pandemic quarantine…) but childhood only lasts for a short period. Let’s make that worthwhile. We’re trapped together for this trip anyway!

…and you know, children can be taught to clean up too.

References

https://www.apa.org/topics/resilience
https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182
The Power of Play – a Research Summary on Play and Learning (Dr. Rachel E. White for Minnesota’s Children Museum)

Written by Anty

A CR Girl turned stay at home Mom of 3 kids. Missus Heroine is the place where I share my thoughts and journey adapting into my new roles as well as many other things. Here I am, in a journey of becoming the Heroine I want myself to be.

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