How to Inspire Courage Through Play and Creativity
Posted June 1, 2016 by Fort Magic
Childhood memories often return us to simpler days where responsibility ran low and feet ran fast – the days were long and play was our primary work. Those days taught us, grew us into the adults we are now, and built us in complex ways of which we were unaware. And they are doing the same for our children. Play and creativity in the early years inspires courage and strength in future years. Fostering courage through play and creativity actually requires minimal help from parents. Playing a backyard game of kickball, designing and building with a Fort Magic fort kit, or creating masterpieces with crayons and paint bring opportunities for bravery to develop naturally. Yet, a parent can do a few things to create an environment for courage to flourish. To develop courage through playtime and creativity, children must be active and engaged in various physical activities. They must actually play. Recent studies estimate that children spend two to eight hours per day in front of a screen relative to age. This does not count as play. Add nap and sleep time. Factor in mealtimes and other routine family activities. The sum? There is little time for play and all of its marvelous benefits. As parents, we can provide the canvas on which learning takes place. We can create opportunities to switch off the screen and open up the schedule for kids to play and flourish in movement and creativity. What would it look like if for one hour, half of the day, or even for a whole day you became the learner and encouraged your child to be the parent or teacher? You could ask them to show you how to hold the brush during painting, or decide what type of fort they'd love to build together with you today. Given just a few choices, thoughtfully considered by you ahead of time, your child will be delighted to choose and participate in playtime activities as a family. Children of all ages beam when given the opportunity to be the authority, to teach something to someone older. Switching roles will allow children to develop a sense of worth through personal accomplishment. By providing them with an opportunity to teach you how to color a picture, catch a ball or bake a cake, your child learns to think, “Hey, I can do that!” Furthermore, your child knows that you believe in them and that they are capable. This experience builds confidence, a foundation of courage. So have fun choosing areas of interest your child enjoys, whether it's bugs or princesses, and have them teach you something about them. As parents, our role is that of the protector, right? However, stepping back for a moment might bring a new perspective. If our children lack the opportunity to take reasonable risks, how can they develop courage and self-reliance? One writer describes our world as risk-averse and speaks of deprivation in physical skills, coordination and the will of our children. Free play allows children to take physical, intellectual, and even emotional, risks. When your child engages in activities, you can talk about safety, then supervise for a time and leave them to play. You can even brainstorm and teach into scenarios if things go wrong. But let them take the risks, age-appropriately. Courage demands it. Risk is vital, but so is failure. Yes ... failure is important! No parent wants their child to fail, but failure brings persistence and perseverance towards important goals (and therefore, failure ultimately brings happiness of achievement in the end.) There may be no task more difficult than letting children fail. Children need to risks and fail, then risk again and fail again, until finally they succeed! In other words, they need to make mistakes and learn from them. And learn to not feel bad about temporary defeats or setbacks. Instead feel excited at how amazing it will be when they finally achieve their goal. Play and creativity offer these opportunities. If a fort comes apart during playtime, a new idea forms of what could work better. With these ideas comes the courage to try again. When knees get scraped riding a bike for the first time, courage puts feet to pedals one more time. When the painting turns to a puddle of mixed paint rather than a Monet, courage finds a new medium or inspires a new masterpiece. Courage blooms in the face of failure. Lasting happiness does too. Love remains the primary role of the parent. Love your babies whether they win or lose, succeed or fail. Let them know that these results do not define them, but build them into the kind of person they want to be. Acting with courage, experimentation, invention and creativity offers exciting opportunities to discover new things, to begin again, and to know the joy of persistence. Have courage for them and always encourage them in their attempts to achieve something new. Children learn from observing as well as doing. You can share stories of your personal failures and demonstrate your own persistence and determination in life. Read together, or purchase books for your children on the lives of others who have persevered and achieved great things. Give your children opportunities to complete tasks and build and create where they are capable, and where they can learn to become capable, even if these creations are not perfect or always clean :) . Courage grows when your child knows you believe they are capable! If our children are to become courageous, we must model bravery. If they are to see themselves with compassion and patience during times of learning new skills, we must also demonstrate these virtues when they are not perfect. The path to mastery is filled with hills and valleys. This truth presents a tall order from all of us in life, but it most definitely leads to personal fulfillment, happiness, and a life of wonderful self-expression. To allow children to risk, to fail, is to encourage the best from your child. We may fail a bit along the way as well, but let us be determined to parent with courage!