The Importance of Play...

How do you feel about play? What do we even mean by the word 'play'? What is the importance of play?

Play has taken on a frivolous meaning over time. 'He's just playing...', we say, as if it's of no significance. And yet, many researchers in the fields of education, neuro-science and, indeed, play itself, are extolling its many virtues and, more importantly, what happens when it doesn't happen.

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Play - The Work of Childhood

There are plenty of classes on offer these days with lots of stimulating approaches to engage you and your infant or toddler. You can make art together, sing, play instruments and listen to stories. Some classes, such as Tiny Talk, help you communicate with your child to ease the frustration of misunderstanding. Others teach you gentle touch through massage techniques. All these may have their place, but how much time does your child spend choosing their own activity? Do they really need to be taught so much, so soon? How do you choose which classes are right for you and your little one?

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'You want me to sit & watch my child play? Where's the value in that?'

I've never actually been asked those questions, but they would be valid. Yes, I would like you to sit peacefully and relax during the class, paying attention to your child. What can he already do? Depending on his stage of development, he may have learned to crawl or sit independently, perhaps he's concentrating on rolling. When we take the time to look, it's amazing what he can already do.

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Inspired by Pikler and the Children

In more than ten years of running parent-child groups, I've seen many wonderful moments of play and interaction between very young children and between the children and their parents. The Playthings in the room have always been beautiful to the eye - it was a Steiner-Waldorf setting so very little was synthetic or brightly coloured and that appealed to me. Then, about six years ago, I was introduced to the work of the Hungarian Paediatrician, Dr Emmi Pikler, and my outlook changed. I began to understand infants and toddlers in a refreshingly new way - from their gross and fine motor development to their amazing competence and ability to communicate long before recognisable language has begun. I learned to acknowledge the very young child as a whole human being, worthy of respect, empathy and autonomy.

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