The Importance of Play
Most of us inherently know that playing is important for kids. We send them outside in hopes of burning energy, getting a dose of natural Vitamin D (ahhhh) and cross our fingers that the outdoors will boost their inner creativity and imaginative play. Playing indoors is much the same, but we hope they find inspiration in different ways...with their toys, things around the house, other friends. Remember the endless hours we used to spend playing school or teacher or hairdresser? How about tag, dodge ball and hide and seek? Likely, many of us have very fond memories of time spent doing these activities. But times have changed. Nowadays, our schedules are programmed with very structured activities. We are exposed to new technologies that are designed to pull us away from real face time, distract us and sidetrack us from our normal responsibilities. Whether it be television, ipads, fancy watches, cell phones, video game consoles, the beloved YouTube that has saved so many of us from meltdowns in the grocery store...! There is an app for nearly everything.
The good news is that these new gadgets which are so much a part of the way we live don't really have that much power over us and don't have to be viewed as a negative, as long as we still have balance with time spent living in reality and evidently...playing.
But...why is play so important and how much do we grasp about the subject?
What we aren't saying is that playing trumps academics. The expectations of a child entering kindergarten have changed to keep up with the times and new (more academically driven) standards. We can't disregard the importance of readiness to enter kindergarten. We'd be doing our children a disservice to focus solely on one subject matter, but what we CAN say is that play is fundamental to learning and building social, emotional, sensory and creative skills among many others.
Do you know we have decades of research in developmental psychology that shows play is the most effective way for young children to learn, develop social skills, and regulate their emotions?
"Play...is the way the child learns what no one can teach him. It is the way he explores and orients himself to the actual world of space and time, of things, animals, structures, and people."
If you were a fly on the wall at Premiere Preschool you would witness a very skilled set of teachers asking their children questions to promote dramatic play. There are dedicated areas in each classroom designed to promote make believe play that bolsters the students' imaginations. Our classrooms have many real life settings to get creative juices flowing.
Play is the most effective way to promote language skills (using proper tone of voice, eye contact, facial cues, hand gestures, body language) and build vocabulary. For example, student A's mother could be a nurse and student B's father might work in construction. Each child will imitate, play and thrive in an environment that has a construction site or doctor's gear kit. Through play, children have the opportunity to develop language skills in a fun and meaningful way.
A child's social skills in the early years are a significant indicator of future school success.
There are so many ways that play today affects our children from youth to emerging leaders in the workplace. Insert record scratch...you might be thinking, how did we just go from play to the workplace? Our children are only preschoolers. The truth is that employers today seek workers with emotional intelligence. Someone with emotional intelligence can build positive relationships, resolve conflicts, and manage his or her emotions. An emotionally intelligent person is aware and empathetic.
Allowing children to use dramatic play at school is empowering. They are allowed to express emotions through play that otherwise might not be acceptable in real life. Children can express joy, sadness, anger, frustration, happiness and since they are in control of the scenario, they feel powerful about handling their feelings.
Allow us to touch on something else that is paramount to our children? Just as we as adults find ways of coping with our emotions through exercise, deep breathing or writing...children are able to comfort themselves and bring themselves to state of equilibrium through play. Play helps a child to regulate emotions so that the fun can continue. This is HUGE. Learning how to manage emotions and self regulate is an indispensable strength in everyday life.
From a grown up perspective, we might see blocks on the carpet as just that. Blocks on a carpet. Little do we realize that our students are learning about shapes, sizes, colors, measurements and area.
Furthermore, we might see a shopping cart and cash register. From a little ones eyes, they are learning to run a grocery store, beauty salon, or restaurant. They are discovering how to use a cash register, recognize coins and bills, give change, set prices and interact in a kind way with a customer. People skills!
At Premiere, we feel very strongly about time spent outdoors, dramatic play and if it's just too darn cold outside...indoor recess. Time outdoors is critical for our students to take a breath of fresh air, have a change of scenery, do away with the ants in our pants and just be. After playing outside, they come in refreshed and ready to engage.
There is illimitable information about the importance of play. As parents, we have the ability to encourage our children to get outside, build a fort, take a walk, pick up bugs, look at the sky...the list goes on. So...what's a few minutes each day of taking time, getting down on their level and just being with them? Not surprisingly, we may learn a thing or two from our children. <3
All the best.