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.
We 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.
Where 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.)