Friday 11 September 2020

The Importance of Play

The start of a new homeschool year normally causes me to reflect. I reflect on the last year and I also reflect on the year to come, thinking about how I want it to be. I ponder our homeschool environment and what I want learning to look like. One thing I always come back to is play. I am truly grateful that homeschooling allows my children to play, both indoor and out, and learn as they go. Play is such an important part of early childhood that Sue Palmer, states in her latest book, 'Upstart', "Love and play are the greatest gifts any generation can hand on to the next". Furthermore, she claims that there is no doubt that play is a vital factor in childhood health and wellbeing, but why is that?

Importance of play for development and learning

Parents can often overlook the importance of play. They might see it as meaningless and a waste of time. But this could not be further from the truth. Play is perhaps the MOST important use of a child’s time. In fact, Albert Einstein famously said, “Play is the highest form of research.” If Einstein thinks so highly of play, then perhaps we should too.

The thing is, play allows children to develop and learn. We might think of it as a relief from serious learning but this is just not the case. As Maria Montessori, the famous educator, once said, “Play is the work of the child.” Therefore, it should be taken seriously and we should allow and encourage our children to play as much as possible.

From an Islamic perspective it is said that a child should play for seven years, be taught for seven and then you should be his friend for seven. So from this we can see that it is extremely important to allow children to play, particularly in the first seven years of life. Forget the phonics and the maths worksheets, what children really need is to play and discover things for themselves.

You might be wondering, how much time children should spend deep in play; the longer the better. The psychologist Jean Piaget said, “Children require long, uninterrupted periods of play and exploration.” They need to be left to their own devices to explore and discover the world around them. However, while it is important for children to learn how to play independently, it is also great to play with them too.

Is it important to play with your kids?

“Time spent playing with children is never wasted.” - Dawn Lantero

Playing with your child can help to boost their development in so many ways. Interacting with them will help to boost their speech and language skills and enable them to learn the rules of social interaction.

Through play, you can model how to do certain things e.g. how to build a castle, make a daisy chain or roll out play dough and use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Of course, children can discover these things for themselves, but sometimes modelling it to them will help to give them some ideas and show them how different things can be used.

Lawrence Cohen, author of ‘Playful Parenting’ says in his book, “The single most important skill that parents can acquire is playing.” Through play we can discover so much about our child. In fact, the philosopher Plato said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Being playful allows the child to feel comfortable and content and help them to open up and talk about their thoughts and feelings. You can use role play to learn about how children feel about certain situations or teach them how to deal with certain things.

Role of fathers versus mothers

A lot of people may believe that playing with children is is a mother’s job alone. Perhaps this is because the father traditionally works for most of the day and the mother is the one who spends more time with her children. However, the father can also play with his children too. In fact, fathers can offer different play experiences that children will love. For example, fathers may take part in more rough and tumble play with their children, throwing them high in the air or play fighting. Roughhousing can benefit children in so many ways. In their book, ‘The art of roughhousing,’ Cohen and DeBenedet say that roughhousing “makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable, likeable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful.”  So don't knock it!

I hope this article has made you think about the huge benefits of play. Never see it as a waste of time; children are learning from it. Let them play and make time to play with them too.



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