Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Importance of Play

All over the news headlines we hear of horrific things happening to children.  It gets to the point when we don't want to read them.  We just want to close our eyes and make it go away.  I do believe, some of these problems could have been lessened or diverted if we just took more time to play.  I'm guilty of it too.  I get so busy with my own stuff that I forget the importance of play.

In graduate school, when I learned about teaching kids who were Deaf and Hard of Hearing we talked about this.  We talked about all the incidentals that kids learn from interacting with their parents in the hearing world (both good and bad things).  Kids with a hearing loss miss out on a lot if their parents aren't willing to figure out a way to communicate with them.  However, that got me thinking, how many hearing kids are missing out for the same reason?

Play has value.  It's not just play.  It teaches vocabulary, sharing, role playing, use of imagination, communication, healthy emotional expression, etc.  Play is crucial to a child's development and while we don't have to be playing with them nonstop...we should spend some time doing it to demonstrate healthy social skills and learn about what they're thinking.

Today I helped at Superhero #1's school with picture day.  It's a small preschool and they let me bring Superhero #2 along.  I made sure he was ok and left him in the 3 year old room (he's 2 1/2) and went on my way to help.  Much to my surprise, his first day of "preschool" was fine.  He didn't cry at all.  No potty training accidents.  Played well with others.  Did the projects. It was only half of a day then we all ate lunch together and went out on the playground.

I was supervising the kids and letting them play on their own for about the first 30 minutes.  However, as time went on, I realized I wanted to play with my Superheroes.  I pushed my oldest on the swing set (along with 3 other boys) and then moved on to sitting in the rocks with my youngest.

It started with a small Tonka truck and him.  We were at the "rock quarry" and loading the truck, dumping it, loading it, dumping it, etc.  I was using all of my excellent truck noises when a little girl asked to play.  He  said yes and that scenario repeated itself until we had 8 or more kids huddled around one Tonka truck.  They were learning how to share, vocabulary, social skills (don't throw the rocks in the air :-)  ) and so much more.  They were also having fun and learning that they mattered.  They were important.  They were valued.  Someone took time for them, called them by name, looked them in the eye.  Isn't that what we want as adults?  Makes sense to me and it makes for much happier kiddos too.

Granted we can't change the world.  However, we can change a kid's life by giving them a little more time and attention.

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