My 21-month-old granddaughter Elizabeth is visiting from England, and it has given me plenty of opportunity to observe young children at play.
While she’s here, Lizzie has had several opportunities to play with Nikayla, age 3, and Tristan, who is one month younger than Lizzie.
Lizzie tunes into female relatives and plays a lot with Nikayla when she can. Not that she snubs Tristan—in fact, Tristan is an initiator of many activities, some of which can get the dynamic duo into some trouble.
It was Tristan who taught Lizzie the joy of tossing balls or other random objects off of the back deck.
Yesterday, when the kids painted a big cardboard box, it was Tristan who started to paint his own torso like an old Celtic warrior. Before long, all three kids were painting themselves and each other, and we had to put the paints away and get the kiddle pool out to de-hue them.
The under 3 set doesn’t have a lot of patience or focus, so we switch activities during play a lot. But, the young kids take simple joy in things. Swinging is definitely cool, as is scooping sand or climbing slides.
It’s easy for a young child to relax and “be” with little planning. These young ones don’t require a Wii or Ninetendo to stay engaged and happy. They are “physical” players, testing how fast they can run, what they can climb, how brave they can be on the high twisty slides.
More power to them. That kind of play, unplanned, unstructured and totally fun, is the best and the kind that we all need to try to hold onto. It’s not 16 we should hold onto as long as we can, it’s 16 months.
And when Lizzie really enjoys something, she’ll squeal with delight and do a quick jig. The Lizzie happy dance, which is totally fun for her and for any observing adults.