Imaginative play for kids: encouraging unstructured fairy play in the backyard.
In today’s world, we’re all so busy. Busy, busy, busy! Our family is no exception. I try really hard to provide the kids with ample free time for real unstructured play, but somehow the busy-ness still creeps in. There are play dates (socialisation!), piano lessons (music!), swimming classes (potentially life saving!).
New research, commissioned by Omo as part of their Dirt is Good campaign, shows that “Australian children are growing up in a world where real play time (involving activities such as climbing a tree, playing imaginary games and making a mud pie) is in decline”. Omo believes that Dirt is Good: that children need plenty of exploratory, hands-on play – the kind where they can go out and get dirty – because it is essential for their learning and healthy development.
I know, deep in my heart, that my kids need time to just be. They need time to unwind. Time to ponder. Time to digest everything else that’s going on around them. They need the freedom to get messy. The freedom to make mistakes. The freedom to do or explore something, just because. And so, ironic as it is, I’ve started to schedule several big ‘free play’ time slots into their weekly agenda. And because it’s scheduled in, it makes it more official. It forces me to prioritise their free play, just as much as I would prioritise any other activity.
Sometimes we do jigsaw puzzles. Sometimes the kids jump on the trampoline. Sometimes we get engrossed in a project. Sometimes they climb trees. Sometimes they dress up, make up stories and put on a show. Sometimes they play with their blocks and magnetic tiles, creating houses for their fairies.
Encouraging imaginative fairy play outside
Just recently, during a dry break between the autumn showers, I thought I would see if I could tempt some unstructured fairy play outdoors. I grabbed a bunch of random things from inside (blocks, fairy and horse figurines, fake flowers, pebbles), and set them up next to a large patch of dirt. The girls noticed, and asked what I was doing. “Oh, just setting out some things to make a fairy garden. What else do you think we might need?”, I asked. “We’ll need feathers,” they replied, “lots of feathers.”
They pottered in their fairy garden for most of the afternoon, making up a narrative as they went along. There was a fairy school going on in one section. A fairy wedding in another. The settings shifted along with the story.
While all this was going on, I was nearby, hanging clothes on the line, eavesdropping on their play. (It’s so lovely listening to kids immersed in imaginative play – they say the darnedest things! And sometimes it gives you a hint about what might be troubling them in the real world…)
“Peggy” by Omo
And you might be wondering exactly how I knew that the showers would hold off for the rest of that afternoon? I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m actually test running a new prototype backyard weather device from Omo called “Peggy”. Peggy’s not on the market yet, but essentially it’s a little weather station in your backyard. It sits on your washing line, and calculates the amount of sun (or shade), the temperature, the humidity, and the forecast from nearby official weather stations, to work out how long it will take for your clothes to dry. Peggy then sends all this information to an app on your phone, which notifies you when the clothes should be taken in, either because they are now dry, or because the forecast has changed and rain is threatening.
How cool is that! A weather station that sits on your own clothes line, giving you a forecast based on the specific conditions in your own backyard! The geek in me thinks this idea is awesome. 🙂
The whole idea behind Peggy, is that Omo is trying to make laundry easier for parents, so they can spend more quality time with their kids. (We all know how frustrating it is to do the washing, hang it out to dry, only for it to be rained on a few hours later…) Omo believes that dirt is good, and that dirt should not be a dirty word. After all, when your kids are grown, you’re (hopefully) not going to remember the laundry. You’re going to remember the together-time. You’re going to remember the play.
Now, before I get you too excited, Peggy is only a prototype at this stage. There’s still lots of ironing out that needs to be done before would be ready to launch, pending consumer reviews. So I don’t have an exact time-frame yet for when Peggy might be rolled out to market just yet. But if you’re keen, you can pre-register your interest at this web address: https://www.omo.com.au/peggy/.
Brought to you by OMO, via Nuffnang.