A couple of weeks ago I blogged about a new Free Play adventure we were embarking on with Petits Filous.
The Let Them Be Bored Challenge encourages children to be just that: bored. The idea is that allowing our children to feel bored and then directing their own play is an important part of child development and as parents, we are giving ourselves the permission to take a more relaxed attitude towards play time.
Petits Filous wants to ensure Free Play doesn’t become a thing of the past. Dedicated to child development in the UK for the last 30 years, they have launched this campaign to champion Free Play and the benefits of it by encouraging parents to embrace it as part of their child’s day.
An easy way to meet kids’ calcium needs is by ensuring they get 3 portions of dairy a day. For example, a glass of milk, a piece of cheddar-type cheese and 1 small pot of Petits Filous fromage frais provides children with their daily calcium needs
At the start of this challenge, I had a really good think about the parts of Rose's life that are controlled either by or other adults in the school setting. As well as school during the week Rose has a number of extra-curricular activities. She has swimming lessons and judo lessons (during school hours) plus ballet and tennis lessons (outside of school hours). She has set times every evening when she does phonic work, number work and her school reading book.
When I write it down it looks like a lot for a 4.5 year old child and while I'm still a firm believer in keeping children busy there was definitely scope to introduce more Free Play time without feeling the need to fill those gaps in her 'schedule' with yet more organised activity. I think my main worry was the guilty feeling that Rose was going to be bored and so I would intentionally fill that time for her.
Petits Filous now contains 50% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D for healthy bones, helping children to play free. Petits Filous make handy little pots of fromage frais to enjoy at home and also Petits Filous pouches for when you’re out and about. The little pots are the perfect size for Rose to manage on her own, great for small hands and appetites.
Doing this challenge has enabled me to let go of the guilt and really understand that Free Play - letting Rose choose what she wants to do and how she wants to do it - is incredibly important.
I've been really lucky to work with Anita Cleare, parenting expert and co-founder of The Positive Parenting Project. We had a Skype chat to discuss how we'd been getting on with the Let Them Be Bored challenge and it was wonderful to get some brilliant implementable advice from Anita.
We talked about how lovely it has been to just sit back and quietly observe Rose playing and how watching her direct her own Free Play has been a real window into her mind and what an incredible privilege that is to see. Anita asked me about Rose's interests and I told her that dressing up and roleplay is Rose's favourite game. I also mentioned my slight concern that Rose doesn't show much interest in traditional toys and Anita explained that Rose was clearly a creative child and reminded me that years ago children would have made toys out of whatever they could find and that Rose's disinterest is not detrimental to her development.
We discussed introducing a novelty as Rose's 'default' Free Play is always dressing up. Anita felt that it might be beneficial to provide some extra materials so Rose could have a go at something new. We talked about being mindful of providing materials that can help stimulate other types of learning, for example, junk modelling can be helpful to encourage more construction based play.
Armed with all this information I explained to Rose that all her dressing up clothes were in the wash and but there were other things for her to play with. I provided a range of craft materials including some tactile items such as pipe cleaners, wool, tubes and boxes. Interestingly, Rose choose to use the box to put all the equipment in to rather than making something with it. In the past, I would have stepped in and helped Rose make the boxes and tubes into something but I watched as she reinforced pieces of paper by sticking them together with sticky tape to make a 'birthday cake' out of playdough, paint and pom poms.
Although she didn't show any interest in using the boxes she figured out all on her own that one piece of paper was too thin to roll out playdough on and would get too soggy if she'd added paint. So she did do something construction based after all!
I also chatted to Anita about Rose's screen time which is something that concerns us, and I know lots of you reading have the same worries. Anita has written a really informative and helpful article that talks about parenting in the digital age. We've been trying hard to follow Anita's advice and have tech-free places and screen-free times that we ALL adhere to and it's been working so well.
I have always been a firm believer in the importance of Free Play, however, taking part in this challenge has prompted me to let go of any residual guilt and reinforced the notion that it's perfectly fine to let the kids be bored.
So next time you hear the words "I'm bored" from your little ones embrace it and see what happens! I'd love to hear about how you encourage Free Play so leave me a comment and let's keep the conversation going.
Thanks to Petits Filous for such a fun campaign. You can learn more about the nutritional benefits of Petits Filous at petitsfilous.co.uk.
Disclosure: I’m working with Petits Filous and BritMums promoting the #PetitsFilousPlayFree campaign about the importance of free play.