importance of 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.

playing with balls for early learning and developmentThere will be some exciting soccer matches as these teams from around the world compete. The journey to being a soccer PLAYer at this level has undoubtedly been long and hard, but it began with a child playing and kicking a ball. Perhaps, parents would kick the ball with the child or maybe brothers or sisters or friends. Likely, a child with such deep motivation probably spent hours kicking the ball against walls and fences. But for that future soccer star, the start was play and fun.

Play is so essential to children’s early learning and development that the United Nations High Commission has enshrined the right to play as one of the Universal Rights of the Child. Play is how children figure out and explore the world. In countries where kids do not have soccer balls, they play with rocks, cans, old shoes, plastic bottles, and bags stuffed with garbage. Noticing a group of children playing with one of these bags inspired Tim Jahnigen. He saw the need for kids to have access to balls and for these balls to be good and sturdy. Specially designed, these One World Futbols are nearly indestructible and since 2010, more than 1.5 million of these balls have impacted the lives of children around the world. In the words of Lisa Tarver, cofounder of One World Futbol, “We really can’t underestimate the power of play.”

In the spirit of World Cup Soccer, for a play-of-the-day, find a ball that your child can play with. Sponge balls or beach balls are often easier for little hands and feet. Kids can hit, kick, throw, and catch and balls can be any size. Who knows what such play might kickstart?

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.importance of play for early learning

Yesterday afternoon, Little Sister went to a birthday party at a gymnastics facility. She enjoyed jumping on the giant air mattress and climbing up some spongy steps and platforms used in place of a ladder so she could slide down the slide. There was a wide balance beam which she crossed very carefully because 3 bean bag monkeys were draped over it. At first, when she lifted up her foot to step over, she stepped right on the monkeys. She tried again with the same result, but the third time she was able to lift her foot over the monkeys. Having mastered that, she took the monkeys right off and crawled across on hands and knees. It was almost completely the reverse of what I expected. How could hands and knees be more difficult? This wasn’t an increase in challenge after mastering a first step, this was a decrease. Kids can be unpredictable and unexplainable.importance of play for early learningWith the monkeys on the floor, I asked, “Why did you take the monkeys off? There are no more monkeys now.” This must have made a connection for her because she began singing No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bridge. The wide balance beam could seem to be a sort of bridge. When I asked if the monkeys were jumping on the bridge, she corrected me that monkeys jump on a bed. She gathered the monkeys up off the floor, laid them on a mattress and began jumping and landing flat out.importance of play for early learning

We can’t see inside the brains of children, but we can sometimes see that brains make connections. The action of jumping, the words “no more monkeys,” and the song all linked together for Little Sister. She built on what she had learned before, monkeys jumping on the bed, to make something new, monkeys jumping on a bridge. importance of play for early learningFor a play-of-the-day, can you add a new element, new words, or some new twist to how your child plays to encourage early learning and new brain connections? (No More Monkeys Jumping On The Bed but mats are okay.)

P.S. Only a few short hours (sleep time) later I saw this poster from Jeff A. Johnson at Explorations Early Learning. This is what Little Sister was doing as she played, combing knowledge and creating a world–a ‘monkey-world.’ play-across-domains ExELP.P.S. For a play-of-the-day everyday, you can Like us at

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 remember what made magical childhood memories for me? Both my parents worked long hours and long days but we were also welcome to bring home friends at anytime, had a small corner of the basement as a play room, and had lots of time to run around outside. I can’t remember much of what the adults did for us, but I certainly recall the things I did: playing in the shed-turned-playhouse outside, a mud kitchen, dressing the cats, building forts from blankets and sticks, and giving temporary homes to assorted bugs and other critters. One of my favorite games was hide-and-seek. This was one of the few times when there was an advantage to being smaller than everyone else; I could squeeze into unlikely places. play makes childhood magical

My kids did some of these but instead of an old shed in the yard, they had a space under the deck. Living in a city limits some activities, but adds others. If there is a secret formula for a magical childhood, one of the special ingredients is PLAY. Time and and space to play is so important for children that it is enshrined in the UN Rights Of The Child. Play is how a child interacts with the world. Of your childhood memories, are the magical moments play activities? Is there time and space for your child to play today?

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

Kindergarten Readiness As Easy As 1 2 3 … #4

In this brand new year, will your child be starting kindergarten? Are you asking, “Will my child be ready for kindergarten?” “What is kindergarten readiness anyway?” Could you use some answers? This is a series of posts that looks at some of the basics of getting your child ready to start kindergarten. Although this answer … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness As Easy As 1 2 3 … #4

What’s The Best Gift for Young Children?

What do you think is the best gift for young children? At this time of year, there is lots of discussion about the best present for kids: traditional toys versus new popular ones, natural items or the latest tech gadget or device, imaginative toys or construction sets–it’s hard to know. Just recently, there were two … Continue reading What’s The Best Gift for Young Children?