When I was growing up, every day after school, I would play school. I would get home, enjoy some Oreos dipped in cold milk, and then go right into my pretend classroom. I would be the teacher, of course. I would direct lessons at the chalkboard, calling on imaginary students to respond to my questions. I would write on the board with fresh pieces of long, white chalk, leaving the chalk nubs for my sister. I would go outside to collect the children and wait until they were quiet and in a line before going inside. (My invisible class was very disruptive. I remember I had to discipline them a lot.) As I look back, I can’t even imagine how many personal problems I worked out through that play. I was a quiet kid who followed the rules, and I’m certain that becoming the teacher and ruling over the disruption must have given me the power to work through my worries and troubles at school.
If you had asked me back then what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would’ve told you either a cash register lady or a stewardess (which is what flight attendants were called in the 70s). But, clearly, my natural curiosity and interest was in teaching.
As your children play, stay close at times and quietly notice how they choose to spend their time. Give them the luxury of unscheduled free time every single day, so they learn to use their imaginations. Notice if they play in a way that helps them work through the ups and downs of their day. Observing their play will tell you a lot about them- things they can’t articulate. This will help you guide them to become the person they were genuinely meant to be.