Though we make time for play in our day it is good to recognise the benefits of play in my children’s lives. Three quotes that I have often considered:
Albert Einstein says: PLAY is the highest form of research.
another of his quotes: Imagination is greater than knowledge.
My friend Karen used to say: Let your children have some serious research time!
It is important for children to be able to play both by themselves and with other people. Either way they are going to be developing skills that are necessary for the rest of their life. When I recognize the benefits of play I can allow more time for it in our day, and on those bad days (in terms of academics) I know that my kids are still learning.
Play is associated with activities done for recreation and amusement. Play can be connected to games; either physical such as sport, or mental such as board games. Though there is no competitive nature in play. Play can be otherwise called a pastime – something that occupies your time, like a hobby or an interest. Play is also associated with acting out life (specifically in a drama or role playing).
Play Develops Relationships
When children play together there is a great opportunity to develop relationships. They need to share, co-operate and deal with conflicts. Initially children are not able to do these things by themselves so they need a parent to step in beside them and teach them. So though they maybe playing with the blocks or dolls by themselves, Mum is never far away ready to instruct and guide their moral development.
Play Gives Practice for Responsibilities
Children’s play is often a form of mimicry – they mimic the life they see their parents live. Can you remember setting your dolls up for church or school? Little boys act out fireman, or cops & robbers, or they drive cars and they become superheroes fixing things. As children play they toy (excuse the pun!) with the ideas of time, money, possessions and work.
Play Helps Kids Grow in Intrapersonal Skills
As children play with other children they have the opportunity to stand up and be a leader. They have the opportunity to express their opinions and ideas. They can even change their ideas. They develop team building and problem solving skills. Each one of these activities will stand them in good stead as they enter the adult world.
Play develops imagination, it develops an ability to go with change, and it gives plenty of opportunity to develop character traits such as perseverance, deference, hospitality, organization etc as children spend time with each other.
Play Identifies Talents and Interests
Given free time children will more often gravitate towards the things that are their passions – they may drift towards building, or drawing, or exploring, or creating, or reading, or music, or sport or …
I don’t want to box/label my children too quickly and yet I want to give them every opportunity to explore the things that they are passionate about. I try and provide a variety of materials and ideas and see what they pursue.
There are times when they don’t seem to pursue anything in particular. That is okay – I continue to offer variety of options and plenty of time to try it all out. One day something will click and they will be absorbed.
Play Builds Academic Skills
Gross motor and fine motor development happens as our children spend time exploring their world. As they have longer periods of play they will develop concentration and observation skills, both of which are foundational for further learning.
As our children talk either in their games or about their playtime they are developing their language skills. As children explore with different situations they are working on math concepts such as shape, space, measurement and numbers. Being able to see things from different perspectives will help with their problem solving and mastering new concepts as they grow older.
As children play they will ask all sorts of questions. This is a significant beginning of their education and it will lead to a love of learning as they find answers and ask more questions. Play offers an opportunity to practice things that they have learnt, to consolidate and even to extend ideas without the fear of failure.
Play is relaxing
As adults, who so often live in a time constraint world it is hard to see our children wafting around seemingly doing nothing. What we don’t see happening in these situations is what is going on in their little minds. I am constantly reminded that our children are little people – they have needs, and they function just like we do.
There are many times through the week that I need time to just blob – and as I sit there my mind reflects on what I have seen or heard or read during the day. There are other times though when my mind just shuts down and completely rests. Our children need the freedom to reflect and process their world as well. Play is their way.
Benefits of Play
If we can start to see the full benefits of play, we can start relaxing with some of our scheduling – or what often happens: over scheduling. We need to let our kids play, let them be kids and be confident that learning will be happening, and they will be consolidating skills. Our children need to run, jump, climb, swing, create, imagine, and problem solve – all of this happens in play. I have found it helpful to actually document what skills I saw my child exhibit in their play as a part of our homeschool journal. They may build tunnels in the sandpit, they may play on musical instruments and play me a song, they may create a story as they play with the doll-people or as they take turns jumping from the cubby house. I just jot a little note in our homeschool records to confirm that these things happened in our day – and it was valuable learning.
Over to you:
Do you need to change how you value play? What is your biggest challenge when you think of that?
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