importance of play

10 New Year’s Resolutions with Young Children #6: PLAY

Now this new year’s resolution should be easiest of all to keep because it’s child’s play, that is making sure kids have time each day for play activities. As adults, we sometimes forget how tremendously important it is for children to just play. It’s easy to get busy, but play is so very important the United Nations High Commission has included the right to play as one of the Universal Rights of the Child.

new year's resolution time to play

Why is play so vital for children? Children learn thru play. They will use practically anything to play with and their actions will often be doing the same thing over and over, but this is play. Empty boxes can be as much fun as expensive toys, sweeping the floor as exciting as looking for pirate treasure. As they play, children learn, figure out, explore, and discover. Play is often very hard work as children are vigorously involved, both physically and mentally. They are developing their understanding of the world outside and themselves inside.

At this age, children are developing at an intense rate. The years before the age of 5 are the most sensitive time for learning. This means that home is really children’s first school and parents and caregivers are the first teachers. Making sure that children have time each day to play is a priority. Time to play is not necessarily time with games and toys or require us to play with children. Kids can play by themselves as well as with others. Nor is it organized activities or being entertained. Time to play could be building a tower with blocks, or taking all the socks out of the drawer. It might be putting a puzzle together or throwing rocks in a puddle. Play can happen at the kitchen sink as well as in a playroom. It can be delightful to watch or give us gray hairs!

new year's resolution time to play

In the words of Fred Rogers, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Could there be a better new year’s resolution than time to play?

Play Important for All Ages

There is a famous quote by George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t quit playing because we grow old, we grow old because we quit playing.” This weekend, I got to visit two places that are very connected to playing. The local toy store was having a celebration and sale. There were lots of families and kids of varying ages playing with some favorite toys and trying out new ones. This photo is of another place that had people playing, but this time it wasn’t kids but grownups, who were determined they wouldn’t grow for all ages

Several community groups, local volunteers, and generous donators have created a workshop facility for adults. After weeks and months of planning and countless hours of work, the space was organized into areas for photography and printing, woodworking, metal work, and electronics.

workshop-robotsWhile the most common name is a workshop, it’s also a playspace. When adults play, it’s often called ‘tinkering’ and some members were tinkering with a small drone and some superhero-looking robots. There’s a meeting once a week where members can share their projects and get feedback and assistance from others in the group, a sort of adult play-date. This open-house was just as busy as the toy store.

The National Institute for Play has an informative article on Pattern of Play. A few types of play are:

–play with objects, such as banging on pots, throwing rocks, or doing a puzzle,

–body-play, as in climbing, running, hanging from monkey bars, rolling down hills and more,

–imaginative and pretend play, which can happen alone or with others,

–and various forms of social play, from rough-and-tumble to building a block castle and reading a story together.

These same patterns exist for adults. Think of sports, theater, music, and art. Many careers include aspects of play, especially creativity and innovation.

For your child today, opportunities for play could include some playtime with objects, movement and outside activities, sharing a few stories and books, some pretend play, and maybe something creative like crafts or art or music. Hmm, maybe that could be the on the agenda for grownups too?

Mrs. A Gets to Meet Superman (Dean Cain)

Mrs. A meets Dean CainJust recently, I got to meet–and have my picture taken–with actor Dean Cain who played Superman in the tv series Lois and Clark. Good thing he wasn’t dressed as Superman; I’d have been even more excited.

Sometimes, the roots of careers can be found in how a child plays, so I asked Dean if, as a young child, pretend and imaginative play was a big part of how he played. He shared that as a child he would combine plastic army figurines and blocks and mix them up together. Then, he would spread them out and create stories to go along with how they happened to be. He said that he used to do this for hours.

Children are all unique, with their own strengths, interests and challenges. They will play differently, too. It’s fascinating to find out about the chef who wanted an easy-bake oven even though it was a girls toy, the Disney designer who loved to draw, the figure skater seen going round and round in circles as a toddler in home movies. Looking back, we can see the hints of what these people would choose to do as adults in the way they played as children.

benefits of super-hero play Too often, we dismiss what children do as “child’s play”. To kids, their play is incredibly important. Play is how children interface with the world. Thru play they learn, cope, and figure out themselves and the world. They do not limit their play to toys, but use whatever is available, often scaring their parents and caregivers. Kids will play by themselves or with others, with real objects or imaginary ones. Play is children’s work and, to kids, work can be play. Whether it’s helping us rake leaves, wash dishes, or pretending to fly as a superhero, kids will work and play hard.

One of the best ways to support children is to make sure they have time and opportunity to play. How will your child play today?

Extraordinary Learning Needs Ordinary Play

Series Part #11: Kids Going to Kindergarten Need to PLAY One of the most important ways that we can support children as they get ready to start kindergarten is let them have time and space to PLAY. Did you know that play is so essential to the healthy development of children that the United Nations … Continue reading Extraordinary Learning Needs Ordinary Play

Will Your Child Be A World Cup Soccer PLAYer?

World Cup Soccer has started and some children will dream of one day playing in the championships. Did you notice that key word: PLAY?  Whether it’s FIFA, the Olympics, the Stanley Cup or another great event and competition, the roots of Sport are PLAY. There will be some exciting soccer matches as these teams from … Continue reading Will Your Child Be A World Cup Soccer PLAYer?

Play Combines New and Old for Brain Connections

During play, children can combine something they already know in a new or different way to create new brain connections. Play is important for early learning and it can happen in the most surprising places. Yesterday afternoon, Little Sister went to a birthday party at a gymnastics facility. She enjoyed jumping on the giant air … Continue reading Play Combines New and Old for Brain Connections

What Makes Childhood Magical? Part 1: PLAY

PLAY Makes Childhood Magical Recently, a popular article has been circulating written by Bunmi Laditan declaring “I’m Done Making My Kid’s Childhood Magical.” This mom states that she’s had it with themed birthdays, elaborate crafts, and contrived memories. She explores some of the things that made childhood magical for her. After reading, I tried to … Continue reading What Makes Childhood Magical? Part 1: PLAY

Playin’ and Payin’ It Forward: Cop Plays With Young Boy

Play is not just a tool for young children’s early learning and development, it is a powerful way to connect hearts and lives for people of any age. Just last week, a police officer noticed a boy outside playing with a basketball and practicing shooting hoops. The officer requested and received permission to take his … Continue reading Playin’ and Payin’ It Forward: Cop Plays With Young Boy

The Name of the Game for Kids is PLAY

The Closing Ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics were an exciting display of color, light, music, and dance. While there were hundreds of adult performers, there were also hundreds of children. Three children wove their way through the magic of the story and the celebration. The athletes of future Olympic Games are the children of today. … Continue reading The Name of the Game for Kids is PLAY