importance of play

October Alphabet: P is for Children and PLAY

The most important activity for kids is play and one of our most crucial responsibilities is to ensure there is time and space for children and play.

importance of play for kidsWe can’t dismiss what kids do as ‘just play’ because play is how children train their brains. Through their play, kids are downloading the skills they need to coordinate body movements, communicate, interact with others, control their own feelings and emotions, and cope with the world around them. If we want kids to become independent and make good choices we need to let them direct their own play.

Just today, a friend and dad of a preschool boy shared this photo. At first, it looks like a line of pillows and cushions along the floor. But it is far more than that. It is a train. The little boy invited his dad to come aboard his train.

pillow-trainWhere did all that learning and creating come from? So many connections had to happen for this to take place. The little boy is consolidating what he knows about trains and recreating it. Trains have cars and these cars are all together in a line. There’s a front to the train and the back, The driver of the train is at the front. Trains carry people and things. When people get on trains, we say, “All aboard.” This sounds like the word board, but it means to hop on, something quite different.

None of this was suggested by the dad. In fact, he asked his son what was going on. Likely, this was more of an invitation to share and the little boy eagerly invited his dad to come and play. Using the pillows and cushions to be the train cars also show the developing ability to use one object to symbolize another. This is a key to reading. We use squiggly lines to symbolize real things. Kids need lots of play experiences over and over for the brain to develop this ability.

As parents and caregivers, we can get clues about what’s happening for a child from play. We may be able to support the play by asking things like, “Do I need a ticket? What could we use?” Or, we may ask the cost and use pretend money. Is there a way that you can give your child the time and space today to play?

(P.S. Can you come out and play? You can share your photos and stories about play on 123’s facebook page.)

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?

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