With most local schools on their 4th snow day, it can be tempting to think about how much wasted “learning” time that is for our kids. Even though their official “school” activities are very important to learning, there is so much learning that takes place during free play time! With g2g Outside, we always want as much of that free play to be outdoors as possible!
Here’s a couple quotes about play from Exchange magazine:
“Historically, play has been viewed as a frivolous break from important endeavors like working and learning when, in fact, a child’s ability to fully and freely engage in play is essential to their learning, productivity, and overall development,” observe Steve Gross and Rebecca Cornelli Sanderson in their article, “Play is the Way,” in the Beginnings section of the September/October 2012 Exchange magazine. They continue:
“A natural drive to play is universal across all young mammals. Children from every society on earth spend time playing. Why? Because play is a crucial vehicle for exploring and learning, developing new skills, and connecting with others. From an infant’s first smile to a preschooler’s careful construction of a tower, children use play to engage with and learn about their world. Play has key neurological, cognitive, socio-emotional, and physiological benefits for children’s health. Most importantly, play is the way in which children form loving, trusting relationships.
“People often think of play in terms of specific ‘play activities’ such as tag, soccer, or playing in the sandbox. In contrast, they think of work in terms of activities like raking leaves, cooking, cleaning, or doing homework. It is our belief that any activity, as long as it is done with a playful approach, is play. In other words, it’s not about what you do, it’s about how you do it. Playfulness is the expression of our natural drive to freely and joyfully explore, engage, and connect with the surrounding world.”
I think it is important for children to learn to view work as “play,” because it is part of them exploring, learning, and being part of their world. I grew up on a farm, and I still view many of the “chores” that I had to do as fun. I have positive memories of even things like cleaning out calf pens in the spring and pulling weeds in the garden. Somehow, I associated them with play more than work.
As parents, I also think that sometimes we need to learn to view our kids’ play as “work” as well. We need to respect the dignity of what they are doing as they learn and explore. As much as we can encourage free play (without structure, electronics, or lots of adult interference), the better! It might just seem like a nuisance when a child digs a hole in the yard and comes inside covered in mud. It is tempting to try to direct that playtime into planting flowers or doing something that seems “productive” to us as adults. Yet if we let that child explore that muddy hole until they are tired of it, digging in the dirt to plant vegetables or pull weeds may not seem like a chore when they get older.
What do you think? Do we enforce our views of “work” and “play” on our children too often?