When our children were younger we mastered the dance steps required to move through the house without stepping on a small, hard toy. Countless legos, plastic animals and dinosaurs, little people figures, cars and more made a minefield out of many a floor.
This post, however, is not about the mess. Rather, it is about how play is the work of children. And, how imaginative play, especially when paired with the stories of faith, plays an important part in shaping the world our children know.
Recently a friend posted a picture of her son with a spaceship out he created of legos, completely from his own mind . It was impressive. Inspired by a spaceship in a movie, he created his version from what pieces he had on hand. He did not require a kit or need a printed plan. He used imagination, experimentation, trial and error and creativity to make something that satisfied his vision. The skills he used had been fostered in his home and part of his play for years and his play will contiue to reinforce a number of life skills that will be a great benefit for him.
Children play differently at different ages. They discover, learn and grow in new ways all the time. Obviously we as parents want to support this and do what is best for our children. Add to that a Catholic parent’s desire to have their children come to know God in their life. These two compatible goals, wanting what is best for our children’s development and wanting them to know God, can both be experienced through play. Play is often about stories. So is our faith. There are wonderful ways for the two to work together. Here are a few questions to consider as you evaluate play and faith as it relates to your child
Check out the books available to your children: The books we provide and read to our children are foundations for some of the stories they will play. Ask yourself these questions.
- Are these books diverse in theme and story?
- Do they provide classic examples of virtues appropriate for children (for example: sharing)?
- Are any of these books religious or related to faith?
Check out the characters and figures your children have for play: Most stories told in play come through the character a child plays with.
- How many characters already have a specific story (action figures from movies, etc) -vs- characters with no pre-made story line where the child can create the story (legos, little people, and dolls not attached to a TV or movie franchise)
- Are any of the characters related to the faith? Noah is by far the simplest example. This is when you realize there are almost no religious figures for the big brand sets of characters.
- What is the mix of “good guys”, “bad guys” and everyday people among the characters?
Check out the “natural creature” toys your kids have for play: This is about stuffed animals without a TV show or plastic dinosaurs that don’t transform into fighting machines. It is the segment of toys that are natural creatures of all types.
Parents, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles all help tell a young child the story of life. The story of who we are, how we relate to others, where we fit in the creation of God, what we are meant to become. As you look for the next toy or game for a beloved little one in your life, ask if they support they story you intend to tell your children.
Recently we were fortunate enough to obtain two great toys that tell a story of faith. Part of the Fisher Price® line of Little People™ a Nativity Scene for children and a Noah’s Ark with Animals Playset. Toys like this fit developmentally, encourage creative play and help tell the story of the people of God; the story of our life’s purpose; the ultimate story we want our children to know, treasure and live.