In this “Week of the Young Child,” let us pause to admire and appreciate not only the magic, but also the importance of child's play. While the word “play” often stirs thoughts of some frivolous or fun but unnecessary part of childhood, it does in fact define the activity through which children engage in rich and meaningful learning.
All areas of development – cognitive, social/emotional, physical, and aesthetic - are enhanced and enriched through play experiences. Through play, children create, use their imagination, negotiate social interactions, try out new ideas, find self-expression, experiment, master fears, discover connections in the world, and experience joy.
How delightful to hear the squeals of excitement in the earliest games of peek-a-boo as the baby first discovers that dad does indeed reappear from behind the blanket. A few years down the road, we can observe busy activities in the “house corner,” where several children are engaged in “dinner time.” Social negotiations occur as they settle what role each will play. Decisions are made about what to cook for dinner. Setting the table involves counting and organizing. Language is used and developed as they interact with one another. Dinner is served and they can delight and take pride in their accomplishment.
Play allows children to develop the capacity for problem solving, for expressing themselves, for scientific exploration, for making discoveries about themselves and others, and for pure enjoyment of the world around them.
This week, I encourage you as you go about your day and family life, discover the ways to have fun and keep play alive. If spring cleaning brings some old clothes out of the closet, find a few items and let them become dress-ups for your children. You might be surprised how much fun can be derived from a few worn out pieces of clothing! As you drive about, make up stories together. Everyone gets to contribute. Certainly get outside and enjoy the spring weather. Stop and look up at the clouds, see shapes, and wonder together where they are going. Perhaps most importantly, leave time unscheduled. Turn off the TV. Children will play. Watch, marvel, respect, celebrate and join in the magic and important work of childhood!
CT Association for the Education of Young Children (CAEYC) Board of Directors