It's All About Play!
I have received countless emails from frustrated teachers because they are “not allowed” to have blocks, or dramatic play, or art, or music, or recess…or play! The reality is that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy - and it makes our children dull as well!!! In the spirit of getting outside to play, I have a free download song this month, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
I have spent months investigating the value of play, and I’ve come up with some insightful information and research that gives credibility to play. It is not a luxury, but is essential to healthy social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development. Classic researchers, such as Jean Piaget, Sigmund Freud, and Lev Vygotsky emphasized the importance of play and realized that civilization and the world as we know it could not/would not exist without play. Children have a lifetime to sit in front of a computer and do worksheets. They have one chance in a lifetime to be a little child and play joyfully and spontaneously and fully!!!
Birds do it.
Kittens do it.
In the zoo do it.
Do it, too?
PLAY! That beautiful little four letter word that is at the heart of childhood, but is sadly disappearing. What most adults don’t realize is that play is NOT a frivolous waste of time. PLAY is the child’s WORK and play is how young children learn best! It’s also the teachers’ work to be ADVOCATES FOR PLAY! The more you know about play, the more you can align it to standards and what is best for children.
Froebel had the right idea over 150 years when he created “children’s gardens.” Before you can grow anything, you have to work long and hard to prepare the soil. Before children can grow into creative, well-adjusted, happy adults, we have to prepare the soil in their gardens. Singing, dancing, running outside, pretending, building, laughing, exploring…these are the essential ingredients for young children that will create the rich soil from which they will grow the rest of their lives.
This article is not a debate about structured activities vs. free play. It is about balance.
Think of play on a continuum. At one end is open-ended free play where children can do whatever they want in the classroom. At the other end is a structured, didactic classroom where children sit passively and follow directions. My hope is that this information will help you provide a balance between free choice and teacher directed activities.