Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Physical Play

I walked in to the above picture a few weeks ago. I suppose many mothers would gasp in horror, forbid their child from jumping inside, and ban them to the yard.

I put some pillows on the floor between the dresser and the bed and pulled out my video camera.

In some ways it's hard for me to watch my son climb up a tree, fling himself off the high inflatable slide onto the mat below, or climb the plastic rock wall at the playground. I can still remember, almost four years ago now, the little IV's in his arm, feeding tube in his nose and little 3 pound body. On the other hand, it gives me a thrill to see him come this far, to see his courage.

Not that Alexa hasn't come far, either. She too has come along way from 2 pounds 10 ounces, jaundice, and pneumonia at 2 years. She just needs a little more support right now. At least in the physical department, although, she can play rough right along with the rest of them. In fact, just last week at the bounce place, I had to intervene when both she and Jared were pushing kids down the slide uninvited, even little toddlers who clearly didn't want to be pushed.

I am so glad it's going to be spring in a few days. Jared is so physical and needs a lot of time and space to move. Alexa is very active, too, and I notice a difference in how whiny or impatient she is based on how much time she's had outdoors. If you haven't read Last Child in the Woods, please do. Richard Louv's points about how nature has a calming effect on children, even helping improve attention spans, really resonates with me. It's something I think we all intuitively know, but the instinct to let kids be free in nature gets drowned out by our endless busyness and, well, just life.

We had a discussion about whether rough play is important for children at the  relaxed learning group I attend. I wholeheartedly agree with allowing kids as much time and room to be physically active as they need. In fact, I don't know how I could stop their physical play. My kids need, no, they demand to play physically. Not all the time. We have long periods of time reading books, playing board games, painting, and other sitting down type play, but, more often than not, at some point in the day, there has to be active, prolonged physical play.

Here's some games the kids and my husband have come up with.

Le poisson - The kids pretend to be a fish. Steve is the French chef who seasons them up and then flips them backwards onto his grill

Belly Walker - The kids walk back and forth across Steve's belly, and they have to not fall off until Steve picks them up and throws them backwards onto the couch.

Then there are the usual Hide-and-Seek, Batman and Batgirl fight the villains (Steve's usually the Riddler and I'm Joker), Tickle Monster, Tag, and all sorts of other chasing games.

While it's very exhausting sometimes to keep up with them, I really will miss this time of joy in simply running across an open field. Maybe I won't ever have to miss it.

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