Should Free Play Lead to a Messy House?

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I was just reading some of the blogs I follow and Laura over at Apt. 11D had a link to this article in the New York Times about the movement to encourage free or imaginative play.

I think free play is important but I have to question some of the assumptions in the article.

First: The article assumes that structure is the opposite of creativity and imagination. Frankly this is baloney. Any artist or writer will tell you that they spend a great deal of time ordering their world. That may mean organizing their thoughts or their studio but creativity is the bringing of a new kind of order out of chaos.? Someone who is creative looks at the world around them and sees it differently and orders it differently than it normally would be ordered.

Secondly: In order to create we must have a foundation of knowledge in order to create from. It is not enough to tell children “Go use your imagination. Pretend the couch is a ship and you are sailing to Africa.”? They must have some idea of what a ship is, what Africa means and what sailing is. They cannot usually get these things from watching movies. Even a movie about sailing does not communicate the background that their imaginations need in order to pretend.? Children need to have fuel for their imaginations in the form of books, and grown-ups playing with them (not instructing them how to play but entering into an imaginative world with them) and also by being encouraged to be curious.

Finally: We need to stop analyzing play, and worrying about play and just make space for it in our lives (grown-ups need to play too), What we are really talking about is interacting with the world and our communities as whole people. Neither we nor our children are just brains to be informed or imaginations or creativity to be stimulated.? We are all of those things at all times and though we may choose to spend an hour using our brains more than our feelings or not using our brains in favor of resting, we need to remember that in order to be whole people we need to recognize ourselves as whole people and interact with our world accordingly.

This may mean that sometimes the house gets messy while we play, but it should also mean that the house gets straightened up. Homes and families are to be prototypes? of the community at large. If we don’t learn to be ourselves while respecting the needs of others and the greater good of the community in our homes, where will we learn that lesson and at what price?

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2 Responses to Should Free Play Lead to a Messy House?

  1. Wilma says:

    Interesting… frameworks and stucture and order are conducive to free-flow and creativity and inspiration. And a mess can be left in the wake. Does this happen in a church fellowship too? Well, for sure in my own house. As I read the above late afternoon, i remembered the kitchen here was rather disorderly, I’d been cooking, and now dishes waited to be washed. To feel an urge to cook up something again, i need to re-order my atmosphere, to begin afresh. I daresay, children who make messes in a school room, are glad to come back the next day to see it re-ordered.

  2. K_Steinmann says:

    I think of it this way: The first thing we learn about God is that he creates (Gen 1:1) and the second thing is that his creative act was to bring order from chaos (Gen 1:2). As image bearers we also react to chaos by creating.

    Often times when children are “bored” in the midst of many toys etc. they need to clean up before they can see what they have to play with. It seems counter-intuitive- surely if the toys are all over they can see what they have to play with? Truthfully they cannot see “the forest for the trees” until some order has been brought.

    So yes this concept does carry over to any human endeavor, there must be structure before there can be creation. Whether we are organizing a community garden or a church fellowship, the structure takes away some of the questions in order to allow us to fully explore others.

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