by Maggie Reigh
“We don't stop playing because we grow old…
We grow old because we stop playing!”
Play is the connecting fibre in relationships. Fred Donaldson calls play the universal language - and he has proven it; in fact he has literally staked his life on it! Fred is a world class speaker and seminar leader who has ventured far and wide to search out the secrets of play… from learning from the masters - pre-schoolers to playing with lions in their cages, Fred has learned how to get into and maintain the spirit of play… and he's coming to Kelowna to share his findings with us in a playful and experiential workshop…
Remember that connecting is more important than correcting with your child. It’s like the old saying goes, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” When we really connect with our children in the spirit of play, they know how much we care. The only true authority we have with them is that which they give us based on our connection with them and play offers the optimum opportunity to connect. Play is also our child’s optimum state of learning.
There is a wonderful story in Michael Mendizza and Joseph Chilton Pearce’s book Magical Child Magical Parent which exemplifies how important it is to get into the stream of play with our children to most effectively educate them. It is a story (which I may have embellished in the retelling!) of a parent who decides to teach his child how to kick a soccer ball. His five-year-old son is so excited that Dad is taking the time to play outside with him. But when the two get outside, the five-year-old doesn’t want to kick the soccer ball. In a state of pure play, he wants to pounce on the ball, roll with the ball, LICK the ball…but he doesn’t want to kick it. His exasperated father grows increasingly impatient with his son. After all, he brought him out here to teach him how to kick the ball. What will the other soccer moms and dads think if his kid doesn’t learn to kick? The authors of the book point out that the five-year-old starts out this adventure in the spirit of play. 100% of his attention is flowing into his business of play. He is in his optimum learning state. However, as he senses his dad’s impatience and annoyance, the child starts to transfer some of his attention to his dad. After all, this adult means everything to him, and he knows he doesn’t want him angry. So now a good portion of his attention is transferred to pleasing him. The boy learns to try to kick the soccer ball for his dad.
Being able to get on-side with our child and join him in the stream of play is indeed an art. The joy and the value of connecting are priceless. True and effective education involves learning to enter his state of optimum learning so that we can gradually lead him to learn the valuable skills that we have to teach. It is often something most parents feel awkward and inadequate with. Few of us had parents who taught us in this manner. The good news is, it’s never too late to learn, and luckily if you are a parent you have a willing teacher – your child. Next time she is playing, allow yourself simply to become curious about the play consciousness that she is in. Ask her if you can join her. Stay open and curious about the process and do everything you can to simply stay in the moment and share her world respectfully. Match her body language and see what you can learn from it.
There are studies out of the University of Washington that indicate that parents spending 15 minutes a day in this state of play with their child has substantially decreased a wide range of behavioral problems.
Fred Donaldson has been watching and learning from children for years. I understand that he has a wonderful way of creating a safe space in which parents can retrieve the spirit of play. Take note of the workshops coming up the end of November. All parents and caregivers are welcome. This is also an important and impactful workshop for people working with families, children and youth. The same workshop is offered twice so you have two opportunities to choose from. Notice that Friday evening is free and you’re invited to bring your children to play on the second day of the workshop you choose. If you want to experience the mastery of his learning, don’t miss the workshops coming up at the end of this month. For more info, vist the Workshops section of this site.