Yes it’s that sim­ple song which is near­ly 90 years old! But I was think­ing more about actu­al­ly blow­ing bubbles.

When my chil­dren were very young I found a fan­tas­tic big bub­ble mak­er. You had a buck­et of soap mix out­side and they could run around the gar­den mak­ing big bub­bles and long bub­bles – it was great fun for everyone.

I saw an inter­view today on CBS Sun­day Morn­ing of an ex-spe­cial ed teacher who had blown bub­bles (I’m guess­ing one-on-one) with a boy with autism. For the first time that child stopped what he was doing, came and sat with the teacher and looked him in the eye!

Wow! The man does bub­ble shows these days.

I have fre­quent­ly used sim­ple, and cheap, pots of bub­bles for very young chil­dren – you cer­tain­ly get your dollar’s worth. I also used it as a first way to reach a speech delayed and ter­ri­bly anx­ious 2 year old (was/is she on the spec­trum? I don’t know).

We spread news­pa­per on the tile floor in her kitchen – obvi­ous­ly her par­ents weren’t there because we could squeal as much as we liked! She also start­ed to talk. I could say “Can you say ‘bubbles’?” and she’d give it a try. It’s such a love­ly word for such a child to try and pro­nounce, its hap­py and you’re doing some­thing hap­py together.

It’s a bit like shar­ing an apple and the word ‘apple’ when a child has nev­er seen one before – anoth­er first word! (same child – shall we call her Exhib­it A as my first charge who had astound­ing and hor­ri­fy­ing delays?) 

The impor­tant thing is to make these activ­i­ties, eat­ing and bub­ble blow­ing as exam­ples, one-on-one, hap­py and socia­ble. Then the respons­es (speech) come like wild fire.

I am assum­ing that the child the spe­cial ed teacher con­nect­ed with was over 3 years old since autism is sel­dom diag­nosed before that age – often much later.

So that means that in that child’s first few years no one sat and blew bub­bles with him to try and draw speech out of him? That’s astound­ing to me. Bub­ble mak­ing soap can even be made at home. I just found numer­ous ‘recipes’ online so I’m sure they’re in library books too.

I am alarmed to think that the 83% of chil­dren under 8 from the mid­dle class fam­i­lies I know who have some devel­op­men­tal and social delays, diag­nosed and undi­ag­nosed, might nev­er have blown bub­bles or had some­one blow bub­bles for them.

I think it must be because their par­ents have for­got­ten how to play – per­haps they nev­er played in their own lives?

I’m prob­a­bly unusu­al because dur­ing my school, work­ing and col­lege years (yes they came in that order!) I thought of my ‘real’ life as being at the week­ends when I went sail­ing – ulti­mate free­dom and true play­time. As a child I had free­dom to play, to make mud pies (some of our ‘beach’ was very mud­dy, but so much fun!) or sand­cas­tles at the beach. We dug up the clay soil in our back gar­den and cre­at­ed lit­tle pots; we made plas­ter of paris Toby jugs from plas­tic moulds. We had dress­ing up box­es full of old clothes; we had cow­boy out­fits made from WWII black­out mate­r­i­al, a lit­tle gold fringe and we were all set. 

These were our play things. We had free­dom to be, to play, to devise our own games and projects. 

My youngest son once built a go-kart from scrap wood. We went back and forth to the iron­mon­gers (hard­ware store!) for all the bits and pieces and final­ly with his big broth­er rid­ing his bike and tow­ing it we all arrived with great pride at the iron­mon­gers to show them the fin­ished project!

With­in a year that youngest son had his first vol­un­teer job – 1 hour a week clean­ing shelves and sweep­ing in the iron­mon­gers – boy was he a hap­py camper (he was 8 years old, remem­ber he was total­ly home edu­cat­ed so had the freedom). 

To him that became part of his play­time, albeit some­thing he took very seri­ous­ly. But he and his broth­er seem to bal­ance play and seri­ous­ness now that they’re grown men and the youngest cer­tain­ly has very good busi­ness savvy. He lit­er­al­ly start­ed from the bottom.

My old­est son got the job of a life­time well before he became the renowned com­put­er design guru he is today. He was employed as an assis­tant to a local muse­um direc­tor a year or so before the muse­um actu­al­ly opened. He had many inter­est­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties in that job – all up his alley relat­ing to the han­dling of his­toric doc­u­ments and artifacts. 

One of the first projects he did was make a scale mod­el of the pro­posed inte­ri­or lay­out of the muse­um. Here was a young guy who had spent hours and hours mak­ing his­tor­i­cal­ly detailed scale mod­els – WWII planes, sub­marines. His play­time, which he too took seri­ous­ly, became his work. 

Learn­ing about com­put­er pro­grammes and the inter­ac­tive nature of many of the muse­um exhibits was how he played in his late teens and ear­ly 20’s. What was play­time to him then is the foun­da­tion of his work today.

So the thing is, from play comes fun and then auto­mat­i­cal­ly learn­ing takes place, you just can’t stop it.

If par­ents don’t blow bub­bles and have fun with their lit­tle ones then they are on the wrong track. 

That is why we have 83% (my own sta­tis­tics, more girls than boys) of chil­dren with devel­op­men­tal delays. 

It’s actu­al­ly a sign that it’s not an epi­dem­ic caused by some­thing out­side our con­trol – autism and relat­ed con­di­tions are well with­in our con­trol – we just have to spend time one-on-one blow­ing bub­bles and then the bub­ble that the child is liv­ing in will burst and they will be free to play.

I’m going to blow bub­bles today! Try it your­self and see how you smile!