This past Saturday proved to be a fun, fabulous day full of creative play and imagination with the grandchildren. There was a scavenger hunt that got a little competitive by the oldest grandson (oh, and me too). For a time, I was royalty. My granddaughter was the queen and I was the princess. We sat in our royal thrones on the deck with our blanket regal robes wrapped around our shoulders. Swinging and sliding took place at the “home” playground, forts were built out of blankets and pillows, basketball games took place in the driveway, pictures were colored, and marching bands were serenading us from the basement play room. Play…it is vital to a child’s development.
“Play is not a four letter word,” writes Rae Pica (2015) in her book What If Everybody Understood Child Development? Children are creatures born to use their imaginations and creativity during play, which all of us adults were once these creative creatures.
What do you see in the picture above? When I asked several adults this question, I got the same answer…a bookmark. That is not what my 4 year old granddaughter saw. One day while she was playing with her 3-year old cousin, she asked me if I had seen her superpower phone. Imagine yourself asking others if they had seen YOUR phone. Yes, that is the ‘panic’ she had in her voice. “Grandma…have you seen my superpower phone?” I hadn’t because I had no idea what she was talking about.
A few minutes later, she shouted out, “found it, Grandma.” I went to see what her ‘superpower phone’ was. Check out the picture below. Love it! ❤😃 Play…creative, imaginative, innovative.
Pica (2015) strongly believes “true play is open-ended and intrinsically motivated. True play is not directed by adults. It has nothing to do with product (home runs, goals, points, and wins) and everything to do with process (fun)” (p. 61).
If children don’t learn to play when they are young, then the likelihood of discovering the value of play as an adult is stifled. What a dreadful, dreary life it would be without the presence of a playful attitude (Pica, 2015).
In the 19th Century, Freidrich Froebel created what we now know as Kindergarten. He understood the importance of play. According to the podcast 99% Invisible (2019):
The word Kindergarten cleverly encompassed two different ideas: kids would play in and learn from nature, but they would also themselves be nurtured and nourished “like plants in a garden.” There were literal gardens and outdoor activities, but the real key to it all was a set of deceptively simple-looking toys that became known as Froebelgaben or in English, Froebel’s Gifts (Para. 7).
Dr. Peter Gray (2014) informs his TEDxNavesink audience that he believes play has declined over the years because of the speculation that children learn best from adults, and that self-directed play is a waste of time. He also believes play has declined because of fear. Parents have fear something bad may happen to their children if the children aren’t supervised at all times.
Dr. Gray (2014) proposes these solutions to the unfortunate decline of play. He advises we: 1) examine our own priorities; 2) get to know our neighbors and develop neighborhood networks; 3) establish places for children to play; and, 4) stand up against more schooling.
Teachers…please understand the value of play! Allow your students to participate in self-regulated play. Get creative and incorporate play into your curriculum, no matter what grade level you teach. Never take away recess, especially from the ones who need it the most! And most importantly, play along WITH your students. (My fifth graders called me the Dodge Ball Queen 😃).