To All City Moms: An Invitation To Play
You know that at the age of four or five, children are looking to learn more about the world around them, and one of the best ways to do that is through interactive conversation, physical activity and play.
"To anyone who’s ever spent time with preschoolers, forcing them to sit for long periods of time seems like a lesson in futility. And yet, that’s exactly what happens in some schools. I wonder who decided to let little kids learn better sitting still and being talked at. Once they start to get antsy, any hope you have of teaching them is lost. Isn’t it? In addition, the upper echelon of society is compressing childhood where children are not children for too long. But who am I to say this ?"
Mariah Suleman is a Barrister by education, an ardent feminist, mum of two and a children’s play-advocate by heart. People close to her know that she has never been one of those who was overly fond of kids. But after having her own, a lot has changed. While changing diapers, striking a balance between her full-time job and family time, her legal career took a legit back seat. Mariah's personal life took precedence over her career. At first, it was difficult to stay home since she was so used to being around other like minded working people, but then she felt her kids needed her. Her son grew up fast and she suddenly felt that there is dearth of entertainment in Islamabad for preschoolers, and that most city mums struggle to keep their little ones engaged in activities that really matter.
Unfortunately, the idea of children playing street cricket with their next door neighbours also lost its charm. Playing outside started to seem dangerous to mothers. Entertainment in form of gadgets made us forget that life is about getting skinned knees as well. It is also about falling down and getting back up. No matter what, these experiences are small victories, which help shape resilience in a child in the long term. Be it a water fight, a fall during an obstacle course outdoors, getting hands dirty whilst gardening or just playing hide and seek, it helps the imagination of a preschooler run wild which fosters happiness.
"The olden days concept of play faded behind the invention of internet. At the most, we take them to malls or to a park nearby. I felt that our childhood days were simpler, when unstructured play was encouraged and when everything wasn’t always supervised. Now, even unstructured play is “planned” and “monitored". (Which is okay given the social safety hazards, but it is sad). So, I wondered 'How do I foster a culture of play? How do I let preschoolers and older kids engage with each other outside of school, outside of fancy birthdays and mums tea parties?'
Having plenty of time to think after the birth of my second child, no job and two handful munchkins hovering over my head, I had my answer: I would plan activities for my kids’ friends, do all the hard work it takes behind a successful, play date and let other mums just send their children to me to get engaged in activities like visual story sessions, painting lessons, karate, gymnastics, outdoor play and so on. I am also the founder of a seasonal kids fair by the name of 'The Tinypreneurs' which promotes entrepreneurship amongst kids by allowing them to have their own vendor booth and tiny businesses. It not only acts as a confidence booster, but also builds character, imagination, business and social skills."
It has been a successful one year and Mariah is continuing all the playtivities with her small, yet effective team. The venture has grown from a team of two, to a team of four talented and trained teachers and a physical activity guru. All these individuals fully understand her vision behind this initiative-- collaborative play, learn through engagement and a lot of fun. There was also a Ramadan-Camp this year that promoted Islam for kids through unconventional and creative mediums of learning. Of course more evening playtivities are coming up this month for ages 4-10, including taekwondo, gymnastics lessons, a three week crash course in painting, evening playtivities involving outdoor play, science lab, gardening, kids yoga and much more. The best part about the science lab will be that it won’t be handled by a conventional teacher, but by two 11-year-old siblings who would engage other children in their science experiments.
From friends children and word of mouth, eventually new little faces join Mariah's evening playtivities every passing week and it’s heartwarming to see children develop social and cognitive skills and discovering their creativity through play using their imagination. And the best part is, her own children are part of all that she does.
So who says learning has to be boring ? It can come in many forms, let it be in a form of a fun-filled fete managed by the kids FOR the kids, or activities that thrive on your child’s imagination.