Does Play Matter?
Do you think play matters anymore for kids? Over and over again I hear parents saying they want their kids to learn. They mean flash cards and learning to read. Over and over again I try to stress the importance of free thinking and free play where the child directs the game or activity they are doing. That is the best form of learning.
Modern-day school in this country is NOT developmentally appropriate. We start teaching kids to read as early as they enter school when study after study has told us over and over again that children are not developmentally ready to read until age 7 or 8 depending on the child. And the child who cannot keep up? We say they’re behind.
We keep pushing kids faster and faster to do everything earlier and earlier. We take more and more of free play time and anything creative in school and we give them more and more work, more homework, and more testing. We don’t even teach art here in Oklahoma public schools until the 5th grade when children’s creativity is determined by age 8! If no one creates, who will be the architects, the engineers, the artists, and the musicians of our future? We place importance on who can finish first and learn it the earliest, but guess what we are getting instead of smarter kids? Mental illness, depression, anxiety, behavior problems, obesity, and poor physical health as well.
I love watching kids create, build, direct, explore, and really master skills. It’s so satisfying to watch a child learn to care for their own needs and their own environment. At Little Sprouts it’s one of our top priorities to teach kids to be independent so they can have success in school. I want my kids to be able to think for themselves, come up with their own ideas, know right from wrong, build great relationships, stand up for themselves, and take care of their own needs. I want them to succeed.
When my daughter was young, I thought the best thing for her was for me to do everything for her, but in reality, me taking her plate to the sink every night after dinner did NOT teach her to carry and dump her lunch tray at school…she dropped it. Me doing everything for her did NOT teach her to care for her own needs at school…she was frustrated.
The most important school readiness skill for children is social skills. Children need to be able to build and nurture relationships to find success in their school future. Children need to be able to say no and stand up for themselves. Children need to be able to share and be kind to others too.
Guess how they learn all of those important things? Through play! Play is children’s work. It’s what they do to act out and figure out life. There are so many things kids can do in a session of self-directed play that will build a successful future for them. Ask Mr. Rogers, he knows what’s up!
We as caregivers need to offer children lots and lots of time to explore and figure things out. We need to guide them with gentle kindness when they get off track. We are here to teach them the way to go. Most of a child’s day should be engaged in activities they choose and direct.
Crafts are fine some of the time, but there is so much more to be learned when children are allowed to CREATE on their own and direct their own talents. I recently downloaded this e-book off of Amazon and I loved all of the fun play activities that could be self-directed by the kids. One of our favorites so far was salt painting. You mix equal parts of salt and boiling water. Stir until the salt dissolves in the water. Then the kids paint with it on dark paper and when it dries, the salt forms small crystals that shimmer in the light. We called it Elsa paint because it looks like ice crystals. (and who’s not into Elsa right now?)
Click on the book below to check out The Undeniable Power of Play on Amazon. You’ll be glad you downloaded it. It’s chock full of fun activities for the kids to do (and you will enjoy them as well)
Study after study has been released about the importance of free play for learning. We have cut out so much recess, music, and physical education in schools that there is scarcely any time for kids to play at school anymore. We are not teaching anything; we are preparing for tests all of our school hours. It’s a shame. Our kids and our future will suffer for it.
Kids AND adults benefit from free play time during our day. Even as adults if we don’t play it can cause serious behavior and health problems. Click here to see the importance of play for adults and children for health.
Not only does The Undeniable Power of Play give you tons of fun activities to help kids play, it also has lots of information on the importance of play and the meaning of play. Be sure to check it out.
Behavior problems are on the rise, health problems are on the rise, we are headed for big trouble. Take the time to make play a priority in your life and your children’s lives. We have to do something before it’s too late.
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