Paparazzi, Grandpa and Cockroach. The games inventors.

Hi! I´m really happy to take part of the very last  Moms’ 30-Minute Blog Challenge held by Steady Mom. This has been a great motivation for me to write in English and an opportunity to share some of my motherhood adventures with many wonderful women around the globe. So thank you Jamie!

Today I have something big to share with you.

It´s a discovery.

A terrific scientific discovery.

It´s based on an hypothesis, it´s being put to test under strict observation and the emerging conclusions are simply great good news. At least for me.

As you might already know, I´ve been undergoing a crash with the concept of self directed play and all other Magda Gerber´s wonderful ideas. She helps us fostering an adequate development in young children, building their selfconfidence and self directed play. Based on studies done in Hungary at the Lockzy Institute, they discovered the enormous importance of letting babies and toddles play in free and safe environments, without being overstimulated nor interrupted.

Magda Gerber

Now, as I said, this information is fascinating for me. Every thing I read about it resounds within my self as pure truth and abounding common sense. The thing is I´m a mother of three wonderful boys who are not babies anymore and we are done with it: no more babies in our family (I agree with you Jamie, we farewelled our stroller long ago).

So, I was feeling somewhat sad that I didn´t come in touch with this information before… I know I did my best and I trust my kids. I know they are great, creative, goodhearted children. As all kids are. But I would have really liked to reinforce their selfconfidence and self directed play and I was feeling it was too late. They already developed their movements, their communication abilities and their socialization. They already walk, talk and make friends.

In time I realized this feeling was a reflection of my own mental restriction and it had nothing to do with kids´ age. So I got the idea of experimenting Magda Gerber´s pinciples with older children, my children actually.  I organized a Play Group for them and their friends every Friday and I keep my agenda really free for those 2 hours. No phone calls, no cooking, no cleaning, no blog. I´m just there. My intention is to be a validating presence, minimizing my interventions as much as possible while I imagine myself as a runway for them to take off soaring the sky of imagination and play.

The amazing part of this experiment is not my attitude though. What´s really great is what they started to do during this time. In the beginning they started playing what was familiar to them. Strongly influenced by gender, boys wanted to play soccer (we live in Argentina and soccer is a sort of national obsession) and girls became princesses in the backyard playhouse. Slowly new ideas started coming out.

The very first day, they told short stories and used all house props to create a scenario to roleplay them. Next idea was to take pictures of the whole thing. So I offered my camera and after a few shots, all of a sudden, the Paparazzi game appeared. They were “famous” artists followed by journalists wanting to get an exclusive shot. They run helter skelter to scape the lens of my point and shoot for about 30 minutes. They took turns to be the Paparazzi and afterwards they checked the results of their silly game in the computer, laughing really loud with every single shot. Now they want to play Paparazzi everyFriday (and the rest of the week too) forgetting it all about soccer and princess-hood. Let me tell you this game is a real success: they just run, run, run and laugh, laugh, laugh… with so little.

“Paparazzi” has a disadvantage, though. The only camera we have is my Panasonic Lumix, which I got as a birthday present and I´m not that willing to let them bang it by accident when trying to get the best shot of their friends. Hence, this does not meet the requirement of  “letting them play alone”.  But it´s a wonderful example and it was a revelation for me. I´m sure they have created this kind of games a thousand times before, but I was not paying attention. Now, I don´t want to miss a detail of their new creations and find an enormous satisfaction in observing them enjoy their body movements, their relationships with others, their imaginative flow…

Since then I´ve witnessed the silliest and funniest games inventions I ever saw. For example, they play Grandpa!. It goes like this: one child says in a very loud voice “Grandpa!”, streches his arms and hugs the first thing he sees. Many times, he jumps flat on the floor hugging it. Have you seen 5 and 8 years old kids hugging the “grandpa floor”? It´s really fun to watch. When I asked them how to play this game, the middle one explained: “everything is my family, so I hug everything”.

There´s also the Cockroach game, which actually is nothing but inventing excuses not to do what one is asked to. This is inspired on a book we once read in Spanish: “1o Excuses not to eat vegetables”. I must say we are vegetarian and my kids eat everything what´s put on their plates with delight (I´m not sure if this flattering the cook or their hunger!). Anyhow the Cockroach game goes like that. They invent something they don´t want to do and run away saying: “I can´t do that right now, I´m killing the Cockrach!” (being vegeterians we respect all forms of life including insects but cockroaches are the only bug I kill when found at home). This ends every time with a big laughter and they have been thinking of writing a book on excuses not to eat vegetables and the cockroach thing is top on the list.

Their friends came to know what´s happening here on Fridays and they want to come too. So right now I have 7 creative hearts inventing all kind of games around me once a week and I´m loving it. When I asked them how to name this Game Group my 5 years old said: “Easy mom. Name it Free Play”.

My 30 minutes are gone. I wanted to share so much and I was in a hurry so I didn´t double check my English as I usually do. I thank you for your patience and for reading up to the very end. There are more games inventions to share with you. I will be coming back every other tuesday to publish them here and I´d love to hear from your children silliest and funniest games ever too.

For now, I just wanted to state my great discovery: as long as my children live with us, it wont be too late for me. I still can step back, stop overstimulating, stop interrupting and let them become free players. I guess this might be one of the purest joys of my life.

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4 thoughts on “Paparazzi, Grandpa and Cockroach. The games inventors.

  1. Free play is indeed a wonderful thing at any age. I wish to heaven that more people in the USA still did this! Everything is scheduled, structured, payed for…it makes it hard to socialize your kid any other way. When I was a kid it was ALL about free play, and I try to give my children lots of opportunity to play…sometimes I fear I go too far to the other extreme and don’t structure enough, but for now it seems to be working.

    • fermaria says:

      Oh! I know! Keeping balance is the real art of rearing children (and living too). Isn´t it? My discovery in this situation is that there is a structure, and that is, that I´m available but not guiding any game during those two hours. So the structure would be I´m supporting their non structured game with my simple uninterrupted presence for those two hours. This is the big difference I´ve been putting to test with this group. And I´m so HAPPY about the results. I understand how difficult it is when you find the only way to socialize your kid is paying for scheduled activities. This one I´ve done is scheduled (Fridays, 6 pm) but my intention is to nourish their creative free play experience so they can assimilate it to their every day life.
      I thank you so much you took the time to read up to the end of my post, written in a hurry (30 minutes is not that much as it seems to be when you´re blogging) and by a non native English speaker… In part I blog in English to learn to accept better my own as I am. I could say, this blog is encouraging my own free play too!
      I´ll take my time to read your Race post and post a comment there too.
      Heartfelt love for you and your kids,
      Fernanda

    • fermaria says:

      Oh Valerie, you made my day!! I LOVE your blog and I really laugh reading your sweet, creative and fun ideas on a budget! Last one about cleaning fairies was really fun. Since I have three beautiful little men, I´ll have to think of something a bit different around here to deal with dirty dishes! You can check my little toddler doing his Washing (more “splashing” than Pixie like) Game here.
      Sometimes men need more practical, real stuff, you see?
      Thank you so much for posting your comment, tomorrow I´ll be publishing another silly game invented by my creative young freeplayers. I´d love to see you around anytime.
      Lots of love, Fernanda.

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