Hello, and welcome to the third in my Advocates of Play series. A series of blog interviews with play promoters around the world...
Introducing Jenna, of Brambles and Buttercups...
Please introduce yourself, and your family.
Hi there. I am Jenna and I was a primary school teacher before my daughter was born. My husband is Ian and daughter is Remeney who is 3.5. She is home educated, though she attends a home ed forest nursery two days a week, where I now also work.
Can you share some of your own experiences of play as a child? Do you have an earliest play memory, or a story to share about play that was particularly meaningful?
My main memories of play as a child are playing with my younger (by three years) brother. I loved playing with Lego, Scalextric, and his Star Wars and He Man toys and also remember adoring my My Little Pony collection and Sylvanian Families. However, the play that most sticks in my mind is when we would play outdoors making up adventure games (we had bushes around the edge of the garden and would go into and behind them … into ‘The Jungle’) and inside making up new rules for board games such as Ludo (and never ending Monopoly where my brother always relished winning so much, he would insist on lending me money in order that his winning streak would just go on and on and on for days!). As a very young child I distinctly remember my mum’s tin of buttons where I would match and sort buttons with relish.
Can you tell us about how you came to be an advocate for play? In what capacity does play feature in your life?
Being an advocate of play came about for a number of reasons. My daughter was always very happy, from before the age of 1, to sit with a pile of books and read them or be read to. I decided that in order to encourage us both to play, I should set up some play invitations. I started posting them on my personal Facebook page and eventually decided to start a blog page where I could organise them better in order that I would be able to refer back to what I had done. I thought this would be a good way of beginning our home education journey in that I am hoping as she gets older, there need be no radical changes. The play invitations and activities will change, but for her they should always be enjoyable and fun. Having started working in her wonderful nursery, I have seen more examples of how play can be used for more children in a different setting and it is lovely to be learning about this side of things too. There was, unfortunately, limited opportunities for play while teaching Years 5 and 6.
Who or what has influenced your perspective on play? Are there any books, blogs, Instagram accounts that you would recommend?
I stumbled across the Imagination Tree which is where I got my initial ideas from. Since then I have found lots of Facebook pages I enjoy and find useful (I steer clear of Instagram as I know I would spend too much time on it!). Play.Hooray and Five Minute Mum are great. I also love Not Messy, Just Learning from a home educator’s perspective, as well as Invitations to Play of course. I also love EMMA Play at Home Mummy although you can’t look at that without getting playroom envy!
How do you facilitate child led, open ended play within your home or setting?
I ensure we have toys which are, in the main, open-ended as a good starting point. When playing with her toys, I follow her lead though I also introduce different ways of playing with something if I have noticed she hasn’t discovered it and think it could create more play opportunities for her. I rotate her toys monthly (fortnightly would be ideal, but unfortunately I don’t have time to do that) in order to help keep her engaged (she loves this) though she has access to her other toys upstairs should she want something specific. Most days I set out other play invitations for her, though many of them are not open-ended and do have a specific ‘goal’, though often she will introduce her own ways of playing or exploring the activity and this is almost always encouraged.
Can you share a top tip for encouraging children to play independently?
Ha! Remeney always played independently (well initially she just read books, but from the age of about two, she began to play with her toys without prompting too), but since she turned 3, she always craves someone to play with her. I find that if I have spent time engaging or playing with her then she is more likely to be happy to play for a while on her own, although not always. I hope that playing together and modelling play will enable her to develop some play strategies to play alone.
What type of play are the children in your home or setting really engaged in right now?
At the moment the play Remeney enjoys, whether alone or playing with me, is story-telling or play involving the positioning schema. Her play is very repetitive - each dinosaur or Lego minifigure takes it in turns to do something like getting on a train or going to prison and escaping and she can play like this for ages.
If you had to pick just three toys or play resources to encourage child led, open ended play, what would you choose?
Grimms rainbow, wooden blocks and some sort of small world figures such as Holztiger animals (this is a very hard question as I am always finding more things I ‘must’ have to encourage play, and on the flip side many household items have fantastic play potential as well).
If you could make one wish for your child, or for the children of today, what would it be?
That they need not worry about what they can or can’t do, about tests or homework, and just enjoy playing and learning and doing things for the sheer enjoyment of it.
You will find more of Jenna and Remeney's adventures on Jenna's Facebook page, Brambles and Buttercups.
If you would like to contribute to my Advocates of Play Series, please send me a message at email@example.com
This blog post contains affiliate links. If you do click through, Bean and I will receive a small amount of commission which will contribute to new books and resources for her home education. You can, however, find all of these resources elsewhere, including other online retailers, second hand selling pages and your local library.