Monday, February 1, 2010


"Play is the most important aspect of a young child's life....educational experts and early childhood specialists have discovered that play is learning, and even more, that play is one of the most effective kinds of learning known...Play is the natural way a child learns. It is the way he learns to concentrate, to exercise his imagination, to try out ideas, to practice grown-up behaviour, to develop a sense of control over his world... When children are born, they are graced with an insatiable sense of curiosity. They want to touch, smell, taste, see and hear everything. They want to talk, they want to imitate other people, they want to explore... In a home where discovery is discouraged, children often learn how not to learn, a tragic outcome. In homes where early explorations are encouraged, the minds and personalities of children grow and develop the potential that is each child's legacy."
Merry Archard from the Introduction in LEARNING THROUGH PLAY: Jean Marzollo and Janice Lloyd.

I hope this photo beside the quote is confusing to you. After looking through dozens of pages on Google Images on topics to do with children playing, I was appauled to find the majority were of children playing with technology or on equipment or with parents directing the play proceedings.
It made me see there was a big need of this weeks blog.
Kids play on computers, kids play on bikes or skateboards, play on playground equipment, play cards, play soccer, play with playdough, play CDs, play Pictionary, play Play Stations, play watching Sky TV, play going to the mall, play going to movies, play at the beach.... But is this 'play'? What IS play anyway? Opinions will differ as to if all or any of the above list are actually 'play', as my trip on Google Images showed me.
This week's quote tells us that play can involve any of our senses and is based around curiosity and a "want to explore" or "discover", leading to develop the potential of children's "minds and personalities".
This sort of play needs time, space, privacy and freedom for a child to design their own play - free choice play. This is different to games or parent directed/parent setup play. Free choice play is just that, the child chooses what and how to play, then plays without interference or directions from adults.
If they are young children they need space, lots of free time, to be outside, to be able to make noise, make mess and access to simple everyday things to play with.
If they are older children they need most of the above plus privacy from intruding adults and interested support to help with quarrels or an idea on how to solve a problem and encourage it all to stay happy and fun.
Of course some food always helps! Then at the end of the play time, children need a loving parent to bring them back into reality, giving them aid to packup.
What is the benefit of "free choice play"? The sentence highlighted in the quote, gives some answers. I would add that free choice play gives confidence in self and develops decision-making skills. Another wonderful thing learned through free choice play, which is a dying trait in children, is the ability to entertain oneself and happily be quiet on one's own, giving space to think. So many teenagers and adults live rushing from event to event, have constant noise and action, frantically shovelling more 'things' into the day. They have forgotten how to STOP and be quiet.
How about TV, DVDs, computers, technology games? They ARE here to stay, but a rich diet of these with their extravagant output of visual and auditory stimulus, only shuts down a child's imagination. It's all done for them and there's nothing left to imagine.
Time to dream and imagination development is crucial for children, maybe more so today than in the past. Ken Robinson in his book "THE ELEMENT" speaks of the unknown career fields of the future and says that children need to be well trained and in-touch with their imagination side of their mind to make the most of their future.


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