children and play

The Story of the Last Playground

To kids, playgrounds are treasure, and the story of the last playground brings this message to our ears, our eyes, and our hearts.

Children have been terribly affected by the war in Syria. Their schools and playgrounds have been bombed out of existence. The children are hungry, sick, and terrified. As they look around them, the world is shattered and broken.

Being underground provides greater safety, so in one city, a group of volunteers built a playground of sorts by digging a tunnel between two basements. In the words of a student-architect, “We dug a tunnel to create a safe connection between the two basements and decorated it with coloured lights and some toys,” says Yaseen. “We wanted to transform the tunnel from being a place associated with attacks, fear and horror to a fun place that engages children as they pass through it.” (UNICEF, Underground Amusement Park gives Syrian children chance to play)

The Land of Childhood now has a ball court, playhouse, space for games, and even a ferris wheel. It’s not a very big ferris wheel and rather “make-shift”, but it keeps the spirit of play alive in the hearts of children. There’s a climbing frame, rocking horses, and a ball pit in this last playground. More volunteers have painted the dirt and rock walls with flowers and bright colors and strung colored lights to shine in the darkness.

Here the kids can laugh and forget the horrors that await them above ground. For many, not only are their playspaces and schools gone, but their homes too. The lucky ones still have their parents. Despite this, children still play. How can they engage in such a ‘frivolous’ activity? To children, play is very serious. It’s how they connect to the world. It’s very profound. It’s how they express their hope in the future. Play is an expression of joy, and the children have not lost the capacity to find joy in bits of time and play.

Maybe what the whole world needs is not war-zones but play-zones. Would that we could learn from the example of children. Peace through play?

Before I Go to Kindergarten #14: Children’s Independent Play with Toys

Are you wondering how the item: children’s independent play with toys can be a ‘requirement’ for kindergarten? How kids play gives developmental clues. Play on the outside reflects what’s happening inside physically, mentally, and emotionally.

children's independent play with toys

Let’s watch kids playing with puzzles. When kids first start playing with puzzles, they need large pieces made of wood, foam, or thick cardboard. The spaces where the pieces fit are obvious and simple shapes. As kids get older and have opportunities to play with puzzles, the pieces can be more numerous, smaller, and trickier. We can see the learning that’s taken place from the play.

During puzzle play, we can see evidence of how kids solve problems. Some kids will try one piece over and over, all different ways. Others will match the picture and colors. Hopefully, kids will use a few different strategies. This shows flexible thinking. We can see how a child deals with frustration. Does the child give up on the puzzle or persevere? Kids will make choices about the play. Is finishing the puzzle an important goal or does the child make a different choice? Maybe, a child will ask for help. There is so much more than just eye-hand coordination to get pieces of a puzzle together.

before kindergarten puzzle play

Generally, at the pre-kindergarten stage, kids can do a puzzle of about 7 or more pieces. This varies depending on previous play with puzzles and other toys but even with only a few pieces we can see physical, mental, and emotional development.

Blocks are a common toy and most kids have had a chance to play with some kind of construction block. Building a tower to see how high it can be before it falls over is another play activity that reveals a great deal of information. For example, does a child try more than once to build a higher tower after the blocks have fallen down? Watching how a child makes adjustments again shows problem-solving skills.

construction imaginative play

A child’s reaction when the tower falls is also important. Is the child easily frustrated or keeps trying? Of course, the noise and crash as the tower falls and rolls all over is pretty loud. For some this is exciting although other children may cover their ears. If more than one child plays with the blocks, we can also watch the interaction. A tower of 6 to 7 blocks is a guideline for this age.

Blocks and puzzles are only two common toys. Not only are there different toys, there are various levels of play. Just because kindergarten happens in school, doesn’t mean it’s only about academics. It’s also about how kids get along, how they interact with materials and information, and how they coordinate their own bodies. We don’t have to wait until kindergarten to gather clues about development. Children’s independent play with toys from just a few months old tells us so much about them and how they are learning. After all, isn’t play the brain’s favorite way to learn?

There are more items on the infographic Before I Go to Kindergarten. Check out the earlier and later posts too.

Before I Go to Kindergarten #9: Play and Group Skills for Kids

Before going to kindergarten, preschool, daycare, or any other play programs, some play and group skills for kids will make their life a lot more fun.

play and group skills for kids

We might think that kids come already knowing how to play. To some extent this is certainly true. Even animals like to play and have fun. There are wonderful video clips of a fierce lion chasing a ball around an enclosure, a bear splashing in backyard pools, a baby elephant rolling a hula hoop, and more. Most kids have play abilities already downloaded in their brain, but as parents and caregivers we also teach kids about play.

tiger-1531731_960_720-pby

Balls are a favorite toy of kids. When babies are sitting on the floor playing with a ball we reach out for it and roll it back. We encourage the baby to roll the ball and eventually our message gets through to roll it to us. Another play interaction might be as a child is eating a cookie. We pretend to take a bite, make some silly noises, and laugh. This is an early lesson in pretend play. There are countless other ways we teach kids about play that we don’t even realize.

play and group skills for kids

Before kids go to daycare, playschool, preschool, and kindergarten, it’s important for them to have had lots of play experiences and opportunities to be part of a group. Some will have had more than others and a few children will have shy personalities. Being able to interact with kids their own age will help children feel more comfortable and confident in a group.

Besides play skills, kids also need to be able to communicate with their words and bodies. A smile is one way to invite a response, so is a simple question like, “Do you want to play?” Kids need words so they can express themselves and negotiate. “Stop, that’s hurting me!” is a way to protect oneself and is more acceptable than hitting. Knowing the names for emotions and how to read facial expressions are helpful play and group skills.  play and group skills for kids

Many communities have programs and facilities we can access for children’s play. Parks, tot lots, and playgrounds are available anytime. There could also be art programs, gym times, and recreation activities available with parents or for kids by themselves. Families might want to exchange play-dates and get-togethers. How do you support developing play and group skills for kids?

Do you want to come over and play? Each day on the 123kindergarten blog, there’s a play-of-the-day inspiration. An earlier post has more of Before I Go to Kindergarten infographic checklist.

When You Think About It, Olympics Celebrate PLAY

This month is the start of the Olympics and underneath the Games, the Olympics celebrate PLAY. We don’t think about that basis as we watch and cheer. After all, the athletes work incredibly hard during training, sacrificing much over the years. But way back, it all started with play. There is no doubt the Olympic … Continue reading When You Think About It, Olympics Celebrate PLAY

A Valentine from PLAY to Kids: How Does Your Child Play?

Did your child get any valentines? This is a rather unusual one, it’s a valentine from PLAY to a child. The valentine says, “I want to play with you!” In the part that says ‘From’, instead of a name, there is a mirror made out of foil and shaped like a heart. The message is … Continue reading A Valentine from PLAY to Kids: How Does Your Child Play?