By Tavish Becker
For the past week, my kids have been playing ‘the game’. Every morning Dominic wakes up, has his rooibos tea and then asks ‘Bubs, shall we play the game?’
The game has a constantly evolving theme and ranges across the house and farm leaving little nests behind as it moves. This is the first time there has been such extended co-operative playing between the two of them and I watch it with joy and amazement.
And I keep asking myself three questions.
When did my unruly monkeys learn to share, negotiate and manage themselves so confidently?
How can I support the game unfolding and growing with them?
What are the conditions that allowed the space for a co-operative game?
In line with the RIE philosophy, I have never pushed sharing onto them. Sharing has developed as they have matured. It is easier for my 4 year old then my 2 year old. It seems to be motivated by the children realising that to share prolongs the game and deepens the joy of the playing. And when they are tired of playing together, sharing becomes harder, defending possessions starts to seem more important than the flow of playing. I try to allow this occasional collapse of the game. To me it is a signal that one of them needs a break.
After having supported them through hair-pulling fights and kicking sessions, I am so relieved to see the care and love with which they negotiate with each other through the game. Their attitudes are amazingly tender, showing a completely different aspect of their characters. My intense, sometimes domineering 4 year old son turns into a compassionate leader, using his force of character to steer the play whilst gently aiding his sister over hurdles. My little 2 year old daughter uses all her newly learnt linguistic skills to negotiate and manoeuvre the play. This is real learning!
It is harder for the 2 year old to sustain multiple sessions of play in a day. I can see that the co-operative playing is developmentally perfect for my 4 year old, but is a stretch for my 2 year old’s maturity. I need to lessen the strain on her by providing rest times. These are outings to the shops where she can sit in the trolley and absorb, times when Dominic goes around the farm with his grandfather looking at the sheep or building with him and she can stay with me and unwind.
For more on not forcing sharing: