I hurriedly change the children’s clothes in the corner of the art room after the session – partly to save the car seats from daubs of poster paint and partly because we’re going to French next and I’m aware that our children tend to be the most stained and muddy ones there at the best of times. Tomorrow it’s their singing class and yesterday was choir. We have gym on Mondays and I’m looking into a theatre group for them. It all sounds very middle class, it’s most definitely the realm of the pushy parent, it’s very expensive (now they’re both over 3, we could send them off to nursery with a voucher for 15 hours in their top pocket) and I can already hear the cries of, “when do they get to play?!”
Somehow, nevertheless, they do manage to fit a fair bit of play in – they spend hours at the park, mostly on their bikes, sometimes on their scooters, sometimes chasing round a yew tree, playing dragons and firefighters and sometimes making a rhododendron bush into a café from which to serve (pretend) tea.
But I’m evading the point. While I fully acknowledge the value of free play and admittedly indulge in idyllic fantasies of the children playing freely for hours on end, their imaginations taking them into faraway places as they construct Duplo worlds under the dining table, in our house this might occur peaceably, on a good day for perhaps ten minutes without minor injury to someone or something.
We’re perfectly happy to let them play; we’re just not so happy to let them fight. So, we’re working on conflict resolution – words not fists, that sort of thing – and in the meantime we might just continue whisking them off for instrumental tuition. Or to a National Trust property. Or at least for a story on the sofa. We can try free play again tomorrow maybe.