Here’s an interesting article about why overly conscientious middle-class parents with too much time on their hands maybe don’t need to be doing so much sitting on the floor and playing with their young kids in the hopes of teaching them more. I was such mom for a good year and a half with Will. Played with him and read to him all the time. I thought I was teaching him. Really I was probably just over-stimulating him and interfering with his innate creativity and inquisitiveness. I remember back before Will could talk I’d find myself commenting on his play with the idea that I was helping him with language development etc. I’d even harass Rob and tell him to interact more with Will, a bit of advice we’ve both come to regret.
Then I wised up and realized that my work was housework and writing and such, and that Will’s work was his independent play and I think we both got a lot happier at home together. I really believe that children are their own best teachers. Will still often says he “needs” me to help him put together a puzzle or to draw a whale for him or build a city out of blocks, but lo and behold if I persuade him to do it himself, he invariably can – and he learns more that way. I still allow and invite Will to accompany me and to participate in his own way with many of my household chores (like cooking and laundry) and I still read to him and listen to his stories and ask questions, but other than some occasional ball-tossing I’ve pretty well weaned myself of the block-building, puzzle-doing, car-pushing thing. Now Rob still struggles to not become the after-work playmate since Will has missed him all day and since Rob actually enjoys some of the play. (They made a very snazzy tractor with Tinkertoys the other day – but in a way it was a great case in point. Now Will thinks he NEEDS Rob in order to make cool Tinkertoy creations.)
We also still haven’t figured out how to deal with the fact that anyone who comes over is, in Will’s eyes, a permanent playmate. I need to work harder to help Will understand that adults need to talk to one another too, without constant Will stories and interjections and requests for play (however cheerful and endearing they might be). It’s my next project: helping our poor relatives and visitors evade Will’s persistent “play with me” traps -- at least some of the time.