Is this helpful?

25th August 2015

Continuing on from my earlier blogs on “Criticising Criticism”:

When I notice someone being criticised I often think to myself, “is that criticism helpful?” I consider whether anything was needed to be said at all and, if so, whether what was said or done was achieved in a helpful way – meaning without side effects such as the criticised person feeling blamed, shamed or humiliated in t3D-Women-Question-mark-01he process (damage to the relationship being worthy of consideration and ideally a priority factor in deciding how we behave). I also note the tone and potential background meaning of the words and actions used; appreciating that when we feel attacked or otherwise stressed we shut down parts of our pre-frontal cortex that help us to think clearly, we go into survival mode, and being willing and able to change something we’ve been doing is made far more difficult. The criticism needs also to be effective and for that to occur we need to be really clear about what we are really suggesting that the person do or change – what actually is the issue? Is it something that they can change or a mess they could clean up? So often we have the best intentions for guiding someone else’s behaviour but it still comes out wrong due to not recognising or focussing on the real issue. Other times, of course, we’re just plain fed up with someone or circumstances and out it blurts!

The next tricky part, I find, is working out whether it is helpful for me to then make comment on the criticism; to either point out that, “really, was it such a big deal that it needed to be criticised?” or else, “what’s another way you could get that message across?” To be honest, mostlPACE rainbow flagy I skip that part of care-filled consideration and jump straight to the criticism of the criticism, filled far less with care and far more with the very blame, shame or humiliation that I felt the need to comment on in the first place! Hmmmm. No pause, just straight in for the kill. It sounds like I’ll do well to focus on that aspect first. PAUSE before intervening with my (well-meaning though perhaps prematurely formed) two-cents worth, intending to generate PEACE.


I’ll be back soon to further discuss how the PAUSE practice has worked out…

Creating Play!

17th August 2015

Notes from participants of recent “Changing the World is Child’s Play” workshops:

Buy the book for even more ideas to make the most of time with children.

June var 033

Apple bobbing!

Activity: Playing with Play. We tried out several of these types of play, none of which cost money or require special equipment:

Expressing Emotions

  1. How does this play make a difference in the world?
    • Emotions effect relationships
    • Social learning
    • Builds communication and vocabulary
    • Supports further play
    • Uses imagination
    • It give them empathy for other people’s emotions and also their own
    • They are more understanding of adults and their peers
    • Lets them know it’s ok to have these emotions
    • Understanding each other
    • Different emotional responses to the same situation may occur
  2. How can different ages be included in this play?
    • Older kids/adults can use the cards to act out the word – reading for inspiration
    • Younger ones can practice naming the emotion and have fun acting them out when told the name – reflecting back
    • Games and role playing for older children

Exploring corners, walls, floor

  1. How does this play make a difference in the world?
    • Noticing our surroundings including the detail of them and the potential for play – growing awareness of the world, what is around us and available for us to use
    • Discovery, things we didn’t know before, new ideas
    • New challenges, new everything
    • Re-interpretation of the world
    • Team-work – relationships, social interactions
    • Spatial awareness
    • Delighting in the simple, wandering
    • What is my environment made of? Realising what we already have
    • Confidence in own abilities
    • Critical thinking
    • Comparing our previous experience and this new one, and differing experiences between same people doing the same thing
    • Adding value
  2. How can different ages be included in this play?
    • Inclusiveness by those older is important to help younger children get into the play
    • All people. All ages can explore
    • Get better at this the more we engage in this sort of play and allow children the chance to enjoy spending time in this way
    • Exploring different levels (eye, hand) – access changes as you get bigger and able to reach more (and smaller people may have access to smaller places also)
    • Team work – tall people help small ones, small ones can share small spaces with big people
    • Tuakana-teina relationship – fostering those relationships
    • Asking open questions, stating what we see
    • Pulling things out and exploring them out of their home as well as in their home
    • Hiding, hunts, scavenging


  1. How does this play make a difference in the world?
    • Fun, free, relaxing, empowering self confidence
    • Perseverance when not getting it right to keep on trying
    • Helping each other, supporting others, relationship building
    • Protecting ourselves
    • Looking to see structures from differing views
    • Healthy, physical benefits, developing competence, gross & fine motor skills, coordination, fitness
    • Performance – 4 seasons dramatisation about trees
    • Explore ideas with movement play
    • Left and right brain stuff
    • Risk, tree climbing, practicing expanding our comfort zones/limits, health & safety exploring
    • Following instruction through various communications and questioning
    • Teamwork practice and team building, working together and trusting each other, developing relationships
    • Touching and movements – respecting boundaries, cultural boundaries
  2. How can different ages be included in this play?
    • Helping each other, being inclusive, tuakana-teina
    • Learning ideas from each other – both older and younger
    • Songs/music/dancing
    • All ages move, from before birth
    • Leader and following roles
    • Telling the children what they are doing but not saying what we think of it – give them the vocabulary to express what they’ve achieved
    • Providing challenges appropriate to stage or age
    • Role modelling and leading by older children or adults and also role reversal with the younger child exploring leadership and the older person following
    • Providing lots of opportunities for practice

Using household itemsSophie boxed up (4)

  1. How does this play make a difference in the world?
    • Inventiveness, creativity, imagination, fantasy, make believe
    • Getting involved
    • Construction & engineering
    • Using what we’ve got
    • Transforming, ingenuity, innovative, not boxed in, experimentation, thinking outside the square
    • Relaxing, enjoyable
    • Understanding through experience (without instructions)
    • Ordering and divergent thinking, problem solving
    • Real world as opposed to plastic toys and toys with a set purpose, appreciating what the world is made of and how we can use it in different ways
    • Exploring senses and a variety of textures
  2. How can different ages be included in this play?
    • Watching each other, helping each other
    • No rules for “how” we need to play with the items
    • Provide differing range of materials to suit stages of development
    • Rolling, chewing, building, banging, balancing – all available as soon as children begin to control their reflexes. The more practice they get the better they will become with controlling their environment
    • Naming what we see young children are doing – without judging it as good or bad

Finding living things

Cicada wonder

  1. How does this play make a difference in the world?
    • Respect and care for all living things, tolerance, respect, caring, responsibility
    • Consequences
    • Sense of wonder
    • Observing, patience, empathy
    • Lifecycle discussions, harvesting, eco systems, learning how things appear/are born and grow and how things die
    • Making sense of the world
    • Asking questions, wondering
    • Develops curiosity, interest, tactile learning
    • Trial and error learning
  2. How can different ages be included in this play?
    • Exploratory play is available to all ages
    • Touch and look
    • Using the senses
    • Researching and talking about what they know and want to know – getting more autonomous in this process as children get older
    • Encouraging outdoors exploration, provide lots of opportunities for this
    • Repetition, exposure, discussion
    • Telling children what we observe of our natural surroundings and how we are interacting with it
    • Role modelling
    • Acceptance of different levels of competence, interest and complexity of learning


Notes from our brainstorms:

What are society’s attitudes to children and play?

Kaitoke camping with Annika (6)

  • Generally negative
  • Children play, not adults
  • Kids are time wasters
  • Some adults wish they could be free like children but don’t see that they can
  • “Just playing” – considered unimportant
  • They should do it quietly
  • Play is not prioritised
  • Play is something you do when there is nothing better to do
  • Different attitudes in different countries
  • Structured play is the most beneficial
  • Lots of rules, not a lot of freedom
  • Risk is not a good thing, health & safety OTT
  • Conformity is important
  • Organised play is necessary
  • We need toys to play – especially new toys out of the box
  • NZ ECE curriculum embraces play but not yet school
  • Time is considered different to work and there are times for each of these. Usually play comes only after work has been done
  • Tends to stop at school in favour of literacy, maths, lessons, the “real learning”
  • I view play as learning J! Fun!
  • Not open-ended, no “just because”
  • Not valued if not “educational” or academic
  • Straight play is not seen as educational
  • Waste of time
  • Play is what little children do i.e. it’s not for older children or adults, you grow out of it and shouldn’t engage in it anymore, you should get into the “real learning” and “real life”
  • Valuing play more than we used to – slowly seeing it as learning e.g. in new entrant classes
  • It creates lots of mess!
  • There has to be an outcome, some sense of success or failure to achieve this


What stops you engaging in play?

 Mar Pics 031

  • Having to engage in paid (and unpaid) work
  • Housework, cooking, taxi driving, time poor
  • Other children with immediate needs
  • Nothing! Seriously only very pressing emergencies!
  • An inner resistance – too much to do
  • Tiredness, headache
  • A little bored sometimes
  • Mess – creates lots of mess!
  • Loss of the habit! Brainwashed into adulthood
  • Not wearing my Playcentre clothes
  • Not physically flexible enough to get down on the floor, fitness/pain, sore back
  • Repetition, bored
  • Sick of same old schema
  • Feeling embarrassed, lacking self-confidence, doubt my ability to play properly
  • Always so much “paperwork” on session
  • Emotionally drained/distracted
  • Too busy
  • Want to do what’s on my agenda
  • My leisure choices are different from children’s
  • Other people directing it!
  • Having to write a learning story about it!
  • Adult “responsibilities”
  • Too much else on
  • On the phone, laptop, toilet, meeting children’s needs etc.
  • Not interesting, not a priority
  • Need it to be done properly, carefully, tidily
  • It needs to look and go a certain way
  • Senseless play
  • I want “me time”
  • No new ideas
  • I’m an adult, old kid or not a kid


What are some benefits to children & adults of play?

 Mar Pics 028

  • Joy, laughing together, happiness filled
  • Being in the present, slow down time
  • Time together – make time, take time
  • Sharing ideas, self, dreams
  • Learning, exploring
  • Communication
  • Physical activity, fitness, endorphin creation
  • Fresh air
  • Bonding, building strong relationships
  • Turn something boring into fun
  • Discovering their own interests, getting to know each other on lots of levels, enjoying each other and appreciating each person’s input
  • Relaxing, fun, enjoying “life’s” moments
  • Memories being laid down, brain structures being formed for life, linking play with good feelings
  • Making the most of time together
  • Stress relief, emotional release
  • Expression of selves
  • Cause and effect learning (real life consequences on a small, manageable scale)
  • Confidence building, responsibility
  • Flexibility in play
  • Positive, vibrant
  • Extends you as an adult
  • Seeing a different perspective
  • Keeps us young and enthusiastic


How can we inject play into normal everyday activities and interactions?


  • Making something into a game
  • Asking questions
  • Being enthusiastic
  • Let go of expectations
  • Expect to have to clean up/do the job again and be ok with that
  • Do jobs as pirates or fairies
  • Make it an adventure
  • Ask children to take the lead and we do what they say
  • Do jobs joyfully throughout their childhood – role modelling
  • Singing, making up songs about what you’re doing
  • Adding role plays
  • Slowing down
  • Accepting help from children with tasks
  • Asking them to take on tasks
  • Giving them responsibilities, asking which they’d like to take on
  • Taking extra time to e.g. vacuum up to an hour to do a 10 minute job – but great learning/bonding along the way
  • Making it sound cool and exciting
  • Friendly competition
  • “Fantasy” play incorporated e.g. washing, dishes, submarines J
  • Turn the screens off
  • Being present, mind and body, when children initiates it
  • Giggling about anything
  • Having plans to get to something else e.g. put clothes at washing machine, put on pjs, then pupper show time
  • Doing chores/work/jobs with a buddy
  • Flying into bed
  • Including children from early on
  • Giving them responsibilities
  • Taking the time
  • Setting them up for success and how to remedy if they don’t succeed (take responsibility with them for cleaning up the mess)
  • Making it a race
  • Break the rules – go outside in the rain
  • Have changes of clothes/appropriate wet weather gear
  • Give your time … have a break from chores together
  • Being fun yourself
  • Acknowledge effort put in to everyday activities – adults and children
  • Adding something unfamiliar to the routine
  • Ask what children thought of what they did themselves before (or instead of) adding our judgements – positive or negative


How can we create NEW play opportunities – adventures, creativity, new tasks?

June var 037

  • Be outdoors, camping, bushwalks, explore our environment
  • Go into nature and just be
  • Allow time to explore
  • Pot luck dinner and games time
  • Make chores fun, introduce dishes alongside Mum
  • Think outside the box – re-purpose things
  • Not prescribed toys e.g. plastic petrol pump has one purpose. So use toys that can be anything e.g. basic building blocks
  • Ask your child
  • Change names for play regularly
  • Respond to their conversations, suggestions and requests, sometimes even if not convenient
  • Try something that someone else is doing
  • Make ourselves fun in all we do
  • “what else can I do with this?”
  • Involve friends/make new friends
  • Centre swap – fresh ideas
  • It’s ok to do nothing (be bored or dream or just sit and be)
  • Follow our children’s lead
  • Open opportunity, no end limits
  • Remove agendas and time constraints
  • Let go of the need for it to work, go, turn out in a certain way – whatever we are doing
  • Go with the flow
  • Pinterest and other ways to get new ideas
  • Unleash your inner child – think like a child
  • Drive to somewhere you’ve never been
  • Go a different way and explore somewhere new – this can be physical or mental or emotional…


“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing”

George Bernard Shaw


Buy the book for even more ideas to make the most of time with children. Arohanui, S xx

“Don’t tell me what to do!”

29th July 2015

Following on from Criticising Criticism:

A further problem I encounter with offering observations or suggesting other ways of doing things (including about how to offer observations and make suggestions to others) is that depending on their own special combination of genes and experiences people choose sometimes vastly different responses when criticism is perceived. Some are open to hearing and may or may not take it on, some ignore it, others go on the attack. So this tricky issue is not just about supporting children to see that there can be another way of interacting with people than criticising them, it can also be very difficult to apply to other adults. I find the only time I feel a need to criticise my husband’s parenting of our girls is when he is (I believe unfairly, and unhelpfully – of course I attempt to justify my actions here) criticising them. So then I criticise his criticism. And, to his own admission, he has a strong, early-years-created, knee-jerk response of “don’t tell me what to do!” (yet, he’s very happy to be telling the girls what to do… We are often full of contradictions in our parenting). Oh woe is me! Still asking the universe for support in unravelling this puzzle…

The quest continues as I consider whether the criticism is helpful…

Criticising Criticism

28th July 2015

Oh dear, I’ve had a bit of a conundrum to deal with lately. How do I point out to my girls the potential damage of their criticisms of each other without criticising them about it?

I already know from previous realisations that it doesn’t help the child if I yell at them to “be quiet!” or if I snatch an item off them that they’ve just snatched off another child. So how do I increase their awareness of the negative side effects that occur from criticising someone, without my attempt at enlightenment appearing to be a criticism itself – which it is, to be fair?

Now, I know that the best way for children (and indeed all human beings) to learn is to see the positive behaviour in action, to have it modelled for us. So I’ve been working away at modelling “not criticism” for my girls (most of the time). However the fly in the ointment here is that it is really, really, not obvious to someone that we are not criticising them. For example: a child is happily singing a song and the words are not correct. I choose to say “oh, I’m enjoying your singing” or just smile, saying nothing, or even just doing nothing at all – after all it’s not really about me is it, it’s about her joy in her song. Really, who cares if she’s singing the “wrong” words. Her big sister however feels the need to point out that little one has the words wrong. If I then jump in and say “oh, it doesn’t matter about the words, it’s the love of singing that matters” I’m then criticising the big sister for criticising her little sister. Doh!

Yesterday I was having lunch with a wonderful wise woman to whom I posed this potential dilemma. She suggested that perhaps I could utilise Shakespeare’s way of taking the air out from under the criticism moment by way of humour or clever irony. Perhaps I could work with the girls to create this – similar to our “tip top” (in sing-song voice) which means “please stop rocking on your chair, it’s not good for the chair and potentially not good for you either” J. I’m keen to give this a try. If nothing else it has the possibility of raising their awareness about criticism and having them consider other alternatives to just diving in and correcting someone because we think they’re doing something wrong, by our definition.

Well, I’ll be back to update this with how we go along this journey.

Continuing on…

Multi-Dimensional Greatness

6th June 2015

Sarah Viking 2

I have created the possibility of Multi-Dimensional Greatness!

I believe that each of us can best serve ourselves, others and the world by fully expressing our greatness for the world – check out Marianne Williamson’s quote below – but until recently I have had it that my greatness needed to look a certain way, and to not achieve that was my failure.

Earlier this year I had my first book published: “Changing the World is Child’s Play.” I launched a website and my education business. I started blogging and Facebook sharing. I was sailing out on unfamiliar seas, vulnerable, really putting myself out there, I had a vision of really changing the world through education about parenting, children and child’s play. I was heading towards my fixed view of my expression of greatness for the world when I received a few knocks. Some people didn’t share my vision, some weren’t interested in supporting my journey, I was even asked to tone it down. I reacted to these knocks as I had as a child when I’d disappointed my parents or my friends didn’t “get it”. I quietly decided I’d failed, that it was all too hard to be this greatness I was supposed to be. I limped on, licking my wounds, sharing my feelings of lost direction and confusion with some, pretending to others that all was ok, but all the while playing smaller and smaller. This state further manifested with physical ailments and the return of “the grey” (my emotional down). I attempted to maintain my integrity by meeting obligations I’d commited to and nervously taking on a little more, digging deep to generate the education sessions so it looked to the world like I was still playing for greatness but then sliding back into hiding the moment the spotlight was off me.

My energy and motivation, the sparkle in my eye, passion for my purpose, excitement in the journey, my true expressions of greatness have been missing.

I’ve been attending a Landmark seminar series considering my relationship with money and, like with the rest of my life, I’ve been playing small: hiding in the back, pretending to be in integrity but really just limping through like I have the rest of my life. Last session I finally admitted to my sharing neighbour and team that I’ve been a fraud, that I’ve not really wanted to be there, that I’m in this uncomfortable space of lacking direction and clarity and fearing grasping the seminar series (and my life) by the hands and playing full out. I realised that I am very stingy with using money for myself and that this reflects in my stinginess in how I care for myself also. This was when I realised that what has been missing for me in recent months is greatness.

I then created the possibility of Multi-Dimensional Greatness – including being great at caring for myself, which is what I feel will be the most beneficial to me right now to support my life to work and other greatness to shine. Eventually, as I practice this great care for myself, it will be established as just what I do. Also I’ve commited to being open to my greatness being expressed, and changing, day to day, moment to moment and taking many different forms.

My greatness is the most generous gift I can offer to the world. I commit now to seeing the wide and multi-dimensional realm which my greatness can encompass and playing full out in this realm for myself, others and the world.


“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson, from A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, Harper Collins, 1992