I love how children are really good at making friends easily. Or not even friends. Just other children to tag along with if the situation suits.
Over the last bank holiday weekend we headed to Stratford-upon-Avon for the day to go to Mary Arden’s Farm. I was aiming to get there for opening, but given we’re always up early and the weather was beautiful, we headed over first thing so N could have a play at the brilliant playground by the river.
We’ve been to the playground before with a couple of his friends and they had a great time, but I was still surprised that he remembered who he’d been there with and what they’d played on together. It’s a mystery how his memory works because most of the time he can’t tell me what he had for lunch or tea 30 minutes afterwards!
The playground is brilliant. There’s lots of parking next to it, and it’s right by the river alongside a lovely riverside path and some big grassy areas for playing and picnics. The day we went the fairground was set up nearby, but it was all shut up being early morning. Handily there’s also toilets so if you’ve got a child like mine who insists he doesn’t need a wee before leaving the house, then at least I know 20 minutes later there’s a toilet if needed.
When we arrived the playground was empty apart from another boy and his mum. The boy looked to be about 5, he was certainly taller and more confident than N, and immediately he was telling us what was at the park and telling N where he wanted him to play. It’s so easy for children just to start talking and get playing together. Well, that is if you’ve a second child who wants to be talked to.
N didn’t really want to be drawn into the other boy’s play and orders at first. He was quite happy walking slowly round the playground, assessing what there was to go on and try out. But eventually he couldn’t really ignore him.
It makes me laugh because N (however much he talks when he’s comfortable with people) does seem to become the leader during play without seeming to try. This little boy was telling N what they should play on and N was mostly doing his own thing with the little boy tagging behind. Eventually when N started going on the same equipment that the boy was suggesting, it was still on his terms.
N did follow the boy onto the pirate ship, but he wouldn’t go where the boy was telling him. He did his own thing and when he wanted to. Then they wandered off elsewhere, and the boy would launch into the next order or commentary on where they should be going next.
I think a lot of the time N just isn’t fussed. He likes playing with other people, and he likes to tell others what to do (according to nursery school), but he doesn’t really listen that much to other people’s suggestions if it’s not what he wants to do.
After about 20 minutes of trying, the little boy did eventually get N to play into the same imaginative game that he wanted. They were aboard the pirate ship, and then the story and play took place with them doing to their houses, and off to the castle together.
It did make me chuckle though, because after 30 minutes of ‘playing’ together before other children started arriving at the playground, the pair of them were still oblivious to each other’s names. It just doesn’t seem to occur to kids to ask each other’s names. Or maybe that’s a boy thing. I know N is terrible with names – there’s even a girl he’s been with at nursery for over a year and still was denying knowledge of her name! Eventually the other boy had worked out N’s name after he’d heard me calling him it.
N made the most of the playground. He did go and have a look at the zip wire, but I knew I’d need to set him off and catch him, after the last time he went on one he let go when he got to the end and didn’t wait for the rebound back, so fell off. So no go this time.
But he loved trying out the newly replaced diggers (they were a bit stiff for children though), the water taps (next time, we must remember to take a bucket or scoop), and the various slides and climbing frames. Hopefully next time the paddling pool will be open too because I did promise him he could go in it next time as we didn’t take his swimwear with us.
By the time we left at 10, more children were arriving. I was surprised it didn’t get busier earlier, but it was great having it all to ourselves. It just needed the ice cream van (which was arriving as we left). If you’re in the area do check it out because it’s great before a bit of shopping or a theatre trip.
Do your children get on with all children they meet? Are they the ones instigating the friendships, or those that go along with them?