Everyday I talk about the importance of PLAY. That PLAY matters in childhood. Another rallying cry could be “Let them PLAY!” It’s natural and necessary for children. When given materials, space, time and freedom PLAY happens!
For the last heavy year now, I have been the proud, and unbiased grandmother (wink wink), of 2 wonderful grandbubs! With them both many, many states away, I am grateful for technology like video chatting to be able to see them in real-time. And, like all grandparents everywhere, my bad days are made better and my good days are made GREAT, when their folks send me a picture or video of them.
Recently a picture of grandbub #1 playing got me thinking—again, in an unbiased grandmother kind of way—how incredibly impressed I was with what he was doing and I thought you might want to incorporate it with your kiddos too!
I know YOU know and believe in the POWER of PLAY!
● Is the way young children learn best;
● Is the way their brains are wired to learn; and
● PLAY addresses all areas of development.
The myriad of benefits of PLAY are too numerous to attempt to enumerate here. However, I can attempt to highlight some of them in as they relate to specific activities.
In regards to what grandbub #1 is doing: Note in the picture how he’s lining up his plastic animals (and dinosaurs). Imagine all the working required! The learning and growing!! With this simple activity, just some of the skills…physical skills or LIFE skills…that are being developed are:
● fine motor skills
● eye-hand coordination
● visual discrimination
For children to thrive, they must PLAY. PLAY is that important! When we let them PLAY you can see it’s never just PLAY, there’s a lot of growing and learning going on!
Parents are their children’s 1st and most important teachers, BUT that doesn’t mean they are responsible for entertaining them 24/7. In fact, that’s not good for either parent or child! Instead, parents need to facilitate their child’s PLAY.
What do I mean by that?
Parents need to provide the materials, space, time and freedom for their children to PLAY! Yes, you’ll want to PLAY with your child occasionally—it’s FUN and can be the basis for many treasured memories, but PLAY is the work of children…not parents! Let them PLAY! Parents can—and should—try to further their kiddo’s learning by observing, and occasionally commenting on, what they’re kidlets are doing.
How do you do that?
Let’s use my grandbub #1’s PLAY scenario.
Plastic toy animals
Basket or box
● Place the plastic toy animals in a basket or small box for your kiddo to explore. Give them as much time as they want, looking at the various animals, becoming familiar with them.
● They may, on their own, start to line the animals up OR they may come up with a completely different PLAY theme!
● While observing them, you might notice a ‘down time’—in other words, a time where there isn’t active PLAY happening—you could consider furthering their exploration and investigation by making a comment on what you see.
● For example, if your kiddo had lined up their animals you might see something like this:
● You could then comment: How about that! I see that some of your animals have stripes. (Your kiddo might point one out to you…if you’re not sure they know what it means to be striped, select one of the toys to highlight what stripes are to them!)
● Suggest your kiddo put all of the striped animals together in a pile and all of the not striped animals together in another pile.
● Especially for the 1st time, you might want to organize the piles into 2 opposing sides, standing the animals in 2 lines facing each other.
● ASK: Just by looking, which side do you think has the most animals in it: the side that has striped animals or the side that has no striped animals? (In this case, it is the not striped animal side)
● Depending on your kiddo’s age and/or interest, count each side as additional verification.
—-(4 striped animals vs 5 not striped; 5 is more than 4)
● Also, depending on your kidlet and/or deciding to comment again at another time, check how many more one side has than the other. (5 is 1 more than 4. 4 + 1 = 5)
● Other options:
◦ Instead of how many more, look for which side has the least or fewest.
◦ What does it mean when the sides are equal?
● Plastic animals provide many opportunities for sorting/categorizing and classifying. Some other examples:
Animals with horns/antlers vs Animals with no horns/antlers
“Soft” vs “Hard” Animals—my collection had plastic as well as stuffed animals. Kiddos sorting could have a tactile aspect to it.
Extinct Animals vs Existing Animals —PLAY is a great way to introduce new words into your kidlet’s vocabulary as well as concepts such as eco-friendly and environmentalism and why it’s important.
PLAY is natural and necessary for children…as parents (and grandparents) we need to do all we can to “Let them PLAY!” because when it comes to PLAY,
Yours in Play!