The word ‘boredom’ has become a four-letter word in recent decades of childcare and parenting.
At Sprouts we attempt to embrace boredom.
We believe that children who are ‘bored’ are actually used to being overstimulated, so at Sprouts we have taken a step back from stimulation.
Instead of more structured activities, we provide free time. Instead of specific toys, we provide open-ended materials. And instead of more children, more technology, more academics, and more intensity, we provide a smaller group with no screens; less restrictions and more freedom.
At Sprouts free play rules the day. We provide a minimum of 90 minutes of outdoor free play and 90 minutes of indoor free play each morning – with even more each afternoon. We allow children access to all of our open-ended toys and materials.
Many schools do not offer a truly free play experience – it can be very messy, get a little crazy, and takes time to develop – but at Sprouts we embrace it.
You might find at Sprouts: A group of children building a camping fire [a pile of blocks and sticks and rocks] near their camping tent [play silks and clips]. The children in the tent are reading books, tending to baby dolls, or playing a card game. Other children are in charge of cooking food over the fire and collecting supplies. Another child is making signs for safe use of the fire and camping site.
This type of elaborate play requires the uninterrupted time period and restriction-free use of open-ended toys and materials.
Extended free play bolsters imagination. While interacting over a longer period of time, children’s play becomes more elaborate and involved. Game rules become more intense, the social dialogue becomes more varied, and the ideas flow.
At Sprouts, all of the toys require imagination. We provide open-ended toys in natural materials that, with imagination, could become anything. The previous campfire of blocks becomes a nest of sticks, the tents become wings and the campsite has transformed into a bird family. Children collect worms and feed their babies. Others lay eggs and chirp loudly. Another child becomes a predatory hawk.
By allowing sufficient play time, children grow imagination.
Extended free play requires independence. Children must feel successful in problem-solving, creativity, and basic life skills.
At Sprouts, we encourage children to make independent attempts of all kinds.
Children attempting to create a tent of silks and clips are not encumbered by adult concepts, they are discovering physics, practicing fine motor skills, designing a structure based on a purpose.
When they become frustrated with the process, they are learning perseverance, they are learning their limits, and then learning to ask for help. We always have children request help. Using words to request a specific action from another person is a very important skill, and practicing it, especially while dealing with intense emotions, is difficult for even adults.
This kind of independence, the confidence in your own skills and the ability to request assistance, is discovered and fostered within the freedom of expansive play.