Friday, September 12, 2014

Negotiating a game of Calvinball

Like many other very cool people, I am a fan of Calvin & Hobbes. And because of that, I know the rules of Calvinball:
  1. You make up the rules as you go along.
  2. You can't play the game the same way twice.
Before I had a child, I thought this was the whimsical invention of a genius storyteller. It made me laugh. Then I had a son, and now he is at the age where he is ready to play Calvinball.

Although we don't formally call it Calvinball (but we probably should), it operates with the same rules. My son makes up the parameters of our games as we go along and I'm fairly sure there are different rules every time. Since he is still fairly young, the rules are usually in his favor: "I get to move my cars before you and they have five flame engines." Or, "I'm going to ask you questions and you have to give the right answer or you're out."

It's a process.

And it turns out it is a necessary process.

Scientists say that experiencing play changes the connections of neurons in the brain. Those connections are necessary for navigating complex social interactions. So, when we play together we learn in a different way than we learn in a classroom.

The good news is that there is a very easy way to encourage this brain building in our children: Free play. At school, my son has lots of opportunities to play with other children his age so they can negotiate their situations. learn how to work together and figure out how to deal with different personalities.

And at home, I've given my son unstructured free time, but now that he's a little older, it's time to break out the Calvinball.

Wish us luck!

What do you do to ensure your child has enough time for free play in the day? Tell me in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Great article! Play is so critical for little ones, for us all! Play is the root of creativity and creativity is the root of innovation. The publication "Brain In The News" by the Dana Foundation offers articles that support your thoughts on play. Please see "Can't Say No To This" "The Piece Of Furniture Known As The Television" and "The Priority Of Play" at