PS PLAY –Parents Supporting PLAY!
Watch a young child at PLAY and you’ll be struck by how totally and completely they are consumed by it. The yoga teacher in me would say they’ve entered a state of Samadhi—about realizing and becoming one, an I-am-ness, with what they’re doing; in terms of psychology they’re in a state of flow…being fully immersed and present, in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and total enjoyment in the process of the activity.
A succinct definition of PLAY is impossible because PLAY does so much! A general, but far from complete description: PLAY is an activity that is
- Self- motivated
- Freely chosen
- Process-oriented, in other words it’s the doing, not the end-result that’s important
- Mentally stress-free
- Framework of rules governing how PLAY proceeds determined by player(s)
Why should you, as a parent, care about PLAY?
The answer to that is more than a few sentences! But I’ll highlight the extra important reasons!
- The need for PLAY is hard-wired into us; it is the way our brains like to learn best.
- The BRAIN develops sequentially from the least complex functioning to the most. However, PLAY in the early months and years of life is very important as it wires the brain, preparing it for higher level skills later.
- PLAY is integral to a child’s development emotionally, socially, physically and cognitively.
- Children fail to thrive when deprived of PLAY.
In fact, PLAY is so critical to a child’s overall health and wellness that the United Nations listed it as one a child’s rights.
So, what can parents do?
Luckily, that’s pretty easy!
- Pay attention to your child—listen and talk to her/him. Relationship-building and language development takes face-to-face time.
◦ For example, immerse your child in language by reading together. Reading to your child is a wonderful activity; building a closeness between parent and child that is never too soon start! You’ll also find out more about your kiddo’s interests and likes and can use that when creating PLAY spaces.
- Provide time, space and materials for your kiddo to PLAY!
◦ Provide hands-on activities with a variety of materials. Young children need concrete experiences to build a foundation of knowledge; hands-on as opposed to virtual experiences offers the greatest learning potential. This enhanced learning via hands-on persists even into adulthood.
◦ Do parents need to entertain their children 24/7? Of course not! And if you hear their cry “I’m bored!” then read this article for added reassurance.
- Give your child the freedom to PLAY!
Support their budding independence and decision-making with child-led activities. Another way is to resist the urge to over-schedule your kiddo with a lot of organized activities supervised by adults. One caveat to that: Downtime should not equate to screen time. The risks vs benefits of screen time for young children come down strongly in favor of waiting.
When children engage in PLAY they are gaining knowledge; developing the tools and skills they’ll need not only in the present time but also to be used as they continue to grow and learn throughout their lifetimes.
PLAY matters in childhood…and beyond!
About the Author:
Karen Whittier, aka Teacher Karen, is Early Childhood Engineer and Play Specialist for Play & Grow. She has an extensive background in early childhood education, co-founding and teaching at her own preschool for many years. Combining her backgrounds in engineering and early childhood education she’s serving children and families with Play & Grow advocating for children by supporting parents in promoting and facilitating PLAY!