WHY Children Need to Play Everyday
Why do we play every day? Children learn through play. That is the why. It's simple and yet seemingly impossible to accept for most people.
When anyone starts questioning, eliminating, or discounting play time my whole body starts to tense. Decades of researchers in early childhood education, special education, and child psychology have proven that learning happens best when children are actively engaged in play and yet somewhere along the way play became a bad word.
If we are letting kids "just play" at school then they are slacking off? The teachers are somehow lazy or not devoted to achievement? The children are less intelligent? None of this is true and yet the general public and politicians remain unconvinced.
When I was in school working on my Masters in Education I was in a happy little bubble. Everyone around me was inspiring and invested in helping children learn. We read articles and books and listened to presentations from experts about the value of play. We learned how to observe play and how to document learning. We practiced playing ourselves to become aware of the potential of different materials. We worked in groups to brainstorm creative ways to introduce new topics and extend learning through play. We practiced all of these skills further within this little bubble at the University lab school where young children astounded us with their knowledge and vocabulary while they spent the mornings happily playing.
And then I went to a public elementary school.
In the classroom where I student taught 32 children one year older were sitting in small rows of desks. I spent 12 weeks shh-ing people and trying to get them to walk quietly in a straight line. We worked on handwriting worksheets, math worksheets, and spelling words. The only time the kids came alive and seemed interested in school were at recess, at the end of the day when we gathered on the floor to read aloud from Junie B. Jones, and those two times I hunted down art supplies and carved out time to do an "extension" project on timelines.
I'm honestly not sure how intelligent or not they might have been because we spent very little time having actual conversations. I rarely saw them actually fully engaged in an activity. They learned some spelling words and some of their handwriting improved, but actual learning? The crazy curious, invested kind that I saw with preschoolers? It did not exist.
Perhaps, somewhere along the way we got it in our heads that fun cannot equal learning. And yet, think about the last time you learned something. Maybe it was at work and you were bored, but was there a time you sought out learning? Something you wanted to learn and devoted some time to learning? Do you remember that curiosity? That joy at overcoming frustration? The feeling of accomplishment when you figured it out? Learning is fun. Learning is joyful. Learning can even be playful.
The next time your child is playing watch them. Really observe what they are doing. How are they moving their bodies? How are they using the materials? Are they trying over and over to accomplish something? Are they carefully watching something? What are they trying to figure out? How are they interacting with the people around them?
Then think about what your child is "supposed" to be learning right now.How to move their bodies in more coordinated ways. How to use materials to answer questions and learn new information. How to interact with others to get their thoughts expressed and negotiate conflicts. Can you see it? Can you see the learning?
For if you take the time, for if you really watch and listen to the chaos and clutter of play you will find it filled with learning. Joyful, invested, curious, ceaseless learning.
The kind of learning that inspires you to learn more and push yourself to grow.
The kind of learning that lasts a lifetime.
The kind of learning that is internally motivated.
The kind of deep, meaningful, lasting learning we all really want for our children.
And that, is why we play.
As a bonus to subscribers, I send out a printable list of PLAY every day Ideas every month! Simple ways to engage your child in play every day of the month. These ideas will;
*Be low prep
*Involve very few materials
*Have a short time commitment
*Address all areas of development
*Carve out a little bit of time every day to play
If you already subscribe to the Newsletter, your PLAY every day calendar of ideas for February is headed your way.
If NOT, Subscribe to the Bambini Newsletter so you don't miss out!
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