Permission to Play: Day 3

DSC_0516George Szekely documented set-up artists, cabinet artists, and home chore artists.  I can relate to the activities he observed in children who get creative and aesthetic satisfaction from carefully arranging objects in fun and functional ways.  So often my play with the kids takes the form of sorting, organizing, and displaying their toys.  It’s not cleaning, it’s play.

I get pleasure from seeing all the Playmobil people collected in a single container or the Legos in color-coded piles.  I like hanging the dress-up to invite new character development.  And I love organizing the spice rack and fruit and veggie bin in the play kitchen.  I know these things will not stay neat and tidy for long, and I’m okay with that (for the most part).  For me, the set-up is the game.  And imagining how my work will enable the kids to play more efficiently, if you can imagine such a thing as efficient play, gives me great gratification.



5 thoughts on “Permission to Play: Day 3

  1. It has been my experience in the play room that when kids sort and organize, they are using the toys as a metaphorical tool to work on an emotional issue that they are struggling with. They will continue to use this “organizing” play until they have conquered that particular concern. Lining up toys, sorting by size and color, making rows, placing toys in individual small mounds, re-arranging all are ways that children use to take control of an emotional issue that causes them concern. I used small containers to provide some organization to the playroom, but I intentionally did not provide too much organization, which I felt was an invitation for a child who needed “organizational” work to proceed into sorting and shifting the toys to that child’s satisfaction. Thanks for this post–and what a great play kitchen. Barb

    • So, since I’m the organizer here, you have me thinking… I guess I see my organizing as a kind of meditative activity. In which case, I suppose it is therapeutic. If this is helpful to a child, or adult, working through something challenging, why wouldn’t you support that as best you can?

      • If I understand your question correctly, I totally support the child’s need to organize. Okay, for example, if I’m asked to help someone clean their home and I walk into an absolute pristine environment, I’m a little confused as to how to proceed. But if I walk into an environment that the books could be straightened or shelved and their are some cracker crumbs on the carpet that need to be cleaned up–I feel extremely comfortable in “re-arranging” and “cleaning.” So if a child walks into a playroom that is already totally sorted, labeled, determined by size, color, type, etc–how can the child use the toys to organize, other than to first “de-organize” so the child can then do the emotional work of organizing–does this make sense? thanks, Barb

  2. I think we’re on the same page here, Barb. I just misinterpreted your first comment. Thanks for clarifying. Do you think that all toy organizing is emotional work?

  3. The Reggio Emilia based preschool that my children attended organized their toys by type. Cars went in the car bin, dinosaurs in the dinosaur bin… you get the idea. And, when it was clean up time, kids knew where to put stuff. It kept the rooms organized, which did lead to more efficient play… since kids knew where to look for certain toys.
    I recall my son lining up building blocks around the room and toy vehicles in a row. Funny… I don’t recall my daughter doing that. I’ve heard more boys engage in that sort of play… lining up toys in an order that pleases them.

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