One of the best things I ever read, after having my first child, was about creating a “Yes” space. This is a space where a child is free to explore without having to say “hati hati” (be careful) or “pelan pelan” (slow down) or “tidak boleh naik” (you can’t climb), and of course, never “No” (I won’t even put “tidak” here because I can’t actually remember hearing any Indonesian parent say that to their child).
The idea of a “Yes” space came from my reading about RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) parenting, also known as “Respectful Parenting”. This is the belief that children already know what to do; they come equipped with a brain that is ready to learn new things, with skills that are ready to be updated second by second, with wild imaginations and the ability to play and discover, while all we have to do is to stand back and let the magic happen.
Children need to be free to explore, to make discoveries, to learn to be brave, to try new textures, and by creating a safe “yes” space, we help to give them the courage to do so.
One thing I love about this, in lazy parent mode, is that before I read all about RIE, I used to get home from work and feel like I had to entertain the kids; endlessly building towers for them to knock down, controlling the game, deciding what to play. It was tiring and, I have to admit, unsatisfying. I am terrible at children’s games. But do you know what I am going at? Sitting down. And observing. When you observe, you find out what it is your children actually like to do (spoiler: they never chose to build towers and then knock them down!).
This has become really fun in Covid times, as outside our house is a large concrete area where I can lay out different objects that the kids can play with (note: this worked just as well when I lived in a tiny apartment). This could be balls, scarves or any kind of fabric, bowls and wooden spoons, legos/Duplo, a bucket of water, magic sand or toys that haven’t been used in a while. Of course if you have a little one, you need to keep an eye on them to make sure that they don’t put the small things in their mouths, so if you have a variety of ages playing, you may have to be more careful about what you put out. You might also want to work out a way to fence things off to make sure your “yes” space is safe. When I lived in a small apartment I just used mattresses to mark off the “yes” space.
And the best part? For parents, play time can become coffee time, or es teh manis time (don’t hold back on the sugar please). You can put your favourite chair in the “yes” space, and just observe. The most important thing is that you don’t show your children how to play, you let them make decisions on how to play with the objects provided. This means that you don’t need to get involved with the play and the more you learn to observe, the more independently your children will play.
It’s a win win.
Full disclosure: I am always in search of a comfortable chair so any “activity” tips may involve me sitting in one!
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