Play... play is a very important part of my life. I play with my children, I play with the toddlers in my play group, I play outside, inside, in boxes, under tables, anywhere my 3-year old tells me I should! I started thinking about play a lot this summer when I realized that my 5-year old would be missing out on so much of it when she headed to Kindergarten in September. Sure, her teacher sings, they paint, and draw, and have 'centers'... but there is nothing like kids engaged in pretend play that grows a child's brain!
'Tend' (my 3-year old's word for 'pretend') was one of his firsts. Having a big sister to 'tend' with is probably the reason he was speaking in full sentenced before 2. The places they travel and the things they see during their play is amazing. They go to China, they battle dragons, they get married, they build ridiculous forts, they have babies, and so many more scenarios I cannot possibly name them all! But why do I care? Because within all this play our kids do all day long, their brains are developing and they are figuring things out that could never be explained to them by an adult. They are working out social situations, engineering plans for complex structures, figuring out complex math problems, and much more. The importance of play during a child's day cannot be replaced by worksheets, memorization, or swim classes.
What is happening during play that is so vital to children's growth and development? World renowned Early Childhood expert, Jean Piaget, showed us that children are applying their knowledge to the world around them when they play. In contrast, another Early Childhood theorist, Vygotsky, demonstrated that children actually construct new knowledge about the world as they interacted with it (through play). By putting these two theories together, we can get a picture of what is actually happening when children play. They are using what they know about their world to create play and then while doing so, they begin to construct new knowledge about this world as they discover things they did not already know.
Then what do the adults do while their child plays? Adults, whether that means teachers, parents or other caregivers, are there to facilitate play. To provide the environment and the opportunity for children to play. They may also play alongside and interact with the child and their play scenarios. Depending on the age of the child, they may need more or less 'help' while playing. The best thing you can do as a parent is provide the space, observe, interact, and only intervene when needed.
Next time your child is playing, listen carefully... you can almost hear the wheels turning in their brain as they construct new meaning of the world around them!
Interested in learning more about play and what your child is actually doing while they play? You can read more here!
By the way, a play group is a perfect opportunity for your little one to play with other same age peers in the safe, carefully chosen, environment of Family Picnic. We've got two you should check out!