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On my way home yesterday, I glanced upward and noticed the first blossoms had emerged on the cherry trees. Seems Vancouver Island's groundhog Vic must not have seen his shadow last week because Spring is surely upon us. Not only did I spy the first unfurled cherry blossoms, but I also noticed several other trees with swollen buds, pregnant with flower or leaf. Changes abound in the mood of the bird population as well. They sound more playful and happy, although I know this is only my projection of feelings on them. If they are singing their hearts out, it is serious stuff: mating season has arrived.
My thoughts, however, were not on sex, mating or reproduction; they focused on play. Play of greater than Olympic proportions. Play unfettered by rules and expectations. Play more child-like than adult.
You see, three years ago, no sooner had the groundhogs completed their annual forecasting task and settled back in for a little nap than another little critter emerged into the world: my first grandchild Brandon. He sure has a lot to teach me. As does his younger brother Parker...and I hear another is on the way.
Having completed the first fifty years-plus of my life, some of my senses have become a little dull. Two mostly: my sense of wonder and my sense of play. In our information-rich world, not much seems new anymore. Oh, I still see beauty on many fronts, but not with the Oh, Wow! attitude I once had. Too much sensory overload. Too much information collected over the years.
Have you ever really watched a small child play, preferably one who had not yet bought into parental messages of values? Give them a box, a few pieces of wood, a blanket, a pot and watch their imaginations go and grow. It's better than watching TV or movies because you don't always know what next will emerge from their fertile imaginations. They see and think things our adult eyes are blind to.
Infants also have such a marvelous acceptance of failure. Despite the fact that 99 percent of humanity can tell them that a large peg will not fit into a small hole, they will perform the experiment for hours until they are convinced it is true. And in the process, they have likely learned more than the single fact that a large peg will not fit into the small hole.
And learning to walk; watch them handle failure! Standing, one foot forward...wobble, wobble....plunk, falling back on butt. Up again, one foot forward...wobble, wobble... holding... second foot following...grab chair....mission accomplished...plunk, falling back on butt. Start process all over again. No,...tired...time for a rest.
You see, Nature has programmed within us these incredible feedback mechanisms for learning. And we learn more by trial and error than by trial and success. Unfortunately, adults often thwart that programming, at a time when it is needed most, by trying to manage the process and shield themselves from the perceived stigma of failure. By thinking we are helping our children by showing them a faster path to learning the right answers, instead of strengthening the learning process, we are actually retarding their overall development. For example, a recent study has shown that infants put in a walker have slower physical development in several areas than those allowed to roam unfettered.
So too, we should leave a child's mind unfettered from tinkering and mechanized learning tools. They will learn to use them soon enough. I question the rush to educate young children in the three Rs: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic at the expense of the two Is: investigation and imagination, to make them little adults by their tenth year or sooner. Perhaps if we let them grow naturally, they would see what we have missed. By not cramming facts into their minds, they may learn natural wisdom, easily seeing connections we adults struggle to see.
Whatever the final outcome, the role of play, especially in learning, is the key to a quality life. Play is purest when there are few rules, and since an infant has not yet learned there are rules, their play is the purest of all. That is what I strive for. To throw a stone just to see how it flies, to hear the sound it makes on contact with earth or water, to marvel at the rings spreading out across the water.
Thinking about the marvelous act unfolding makes me want to pack my bags and move closer to my grandsons to watch them grow. Hey, it could be great fun. As a grandparent I am not responsible for midnight feedings nor most diaper changes. I can have permission to get down on the floor and play again with boxes and sticks and pots. And dream of incredible animals. And try experiments. And...
Don't worry, Kristi and Mitch, I'm not packing......YET!
Regaining Wonder by Keith C. Heidorn, PhD . ©2000, All Rights Reserved.
I have recently added many of my lifetime collection of photographs and art works to an on-line shop where you can purchase notecards, posters, and greeting cards, etc. of my best images.