Posted by: fispreschool | May 18, 2011

Yet another reason to let the children play!

I follow several blogs and I can’t say enough about the blog notjustcute.com by Amanda Morgan.  I have cut and pasted her article here about play and what all it can do for your child.  Although expectations keep getting higher and higher for our young children, I don’t think it’s necessarily the best thing.  I was recently able to go to a session by Daniel Pink who talked about how the world is changing and what kind of jobs will be in the future for our children.  He spoke repeatedly about how employers will be looking for creative thinkers and problem solvers.  Play is exactly the activity that will inspire those kinds of minds.  Ever since then, I can’t help but smile when I hear my own three and five year old playing and the level of learning taking place. 

Yesterday I brought home a cylinder container that a poster was mailed in.  They immediately noticed the object and asked about it.  I asked them what we should do with it and they were able to rattle off at least five different ideas in a matter of seconds.  I know that they will be ready for the kind of employment that Daniel Pink is talking about in the future and I know that this will be from being part of a rich play environment at preschool and at home.

All of this research is exactly why the Kentucky Department of Education has a program review process and will begin using ECERS-R standards to evaluate Kentucky’s preschool programs this coming Fall.  Part of that process looks at the program providing a substantial portion of the day to gross motor play outside and to free play at centers in the classroom.   Another part of the evaluation looks at developmentally appropriate practice and actually states that the use of worksheets is not appropriate.  We will not have worksheets as part of our preschool program.  Children need to be learning through active engagement with their environment and we can have greater learning taking place by having rich materials in our centers.  An observer may pop in one of our classrooms and hear children being loud and active.  They may think that the children are just running amuck and no learning is taking place when quite the opposite is true.  Those young minds are making new connections every day.  So let the children play and love school!

Here is Ms. Morgan’s article.

Play: The Key to Creativity

It has been said that play is a child’s work. While play has been around since the dawn of time, the science of play is relatively new. What some may consider to be only a frivolous pastime for children has, over the last century, been uncovered as a powerful tool for learning, a key to creativity and innovation, and, some would argue, a biological necessity akin to sleep.

Researchers, like Dr. Stuart Brown of the National Institute for Play, assert that play is more than just good fun, and even more than a way to practice and imitate skills for the future. Play, they submit, is a necessary component to healthy human development. It helps build emotional regulation, appropriate risk-taking behaviors, abstract thinking, curiosity, and resiliency. Incorporating neuroscience, they have found that play “lights up the brain” and builds intelligence in a truly unique way.

And yet, while the science of play is gaining ground, the actual occurrence of play seems to be diminishing in our culture.

As this article in the New York Times stated, “The average 3 year-old can pick up an iPhone and expertly scroll through the menu of apps, but how many 7 year-olds can organize a kickball game with the neighborhood kids?”

The Nuts and Bolts of Play

Play comes in many forms. It may be the toddler pulling pans from the kitchen cupboard, the preschoolers dressing up and holding a royal ball, or a passel of friends racing down the sidewalk. The one common component of play is that it is enjoyable and intrinsically driven.

Back in the early thirties, researcher Mildred Parten outlined six stages of social play, ranging from unoccupied play and onlooker play on to full cooperative play. This theory recognized play as something that could take on many different social forms. While a group of children playing together is easily recognizable, a child simply watching another is also a form of play. More recently, the National Institute for Play has outlined seven patterns or types of play including movement and object play as well as the less obvious types such as the emotional interactions constituting attunement play.

One aspect of play that has even Corporate America paying attention, is its ability to unlock creativity and innovation. In his TED presentation, Tim Brown, CEO of design firm, IDEO points out the firm’s “back to preschool” climate to encourage innovation. Other businesses like movie-maker Pixar, and dominating internet presence, Google, also encourage playfulness and exploration in their corporate culture as a way to spark ingenuity. The Stanford Institute of Design even offers a course entitled, From Play to Innovation, where participants study the development of play and its behaviors and apply those elements in innovative corporate design.

What innovative entities are beginning to recognize is that a culture of playfulness engenders divergent thinking, problem-solving, and the ability to create “something from nothing”. People who are good “players” tend to be more creative, resourceful, and in many instances, it helps people do their jobs better and enjoy them more when there is an element of play.

By nature, children seem to be good players. They immediately ask, “What is that and what else can I do with it?”, they see new perspectives through role-play, and effortlessly engage others in a common cause (whether that’s building a fort, storming a castle, or a good old-fashioned game of Red Rover).

So how can child’s play be in danger?

What comes so easily by nature can easily be lost to a lack of nurture. Some blame the emphasis on academic achievement which, while the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive, appears to be pushing play from preschools and recess from school schedules. Others cite the fast pace of American culture, moving adults and children alike from one scheduled event to the next.

Personalities also play a role as some parents and teachers may be more or less comfortable with relinquishing control and allowing children room to play. Play can be chaotic and messy. It’s often much easier, faster, and cleaner to turn to technology and flip on the TV or start up a video game.

But when children are allowed to be bored, they learn to take initiative, show leadership, organize, and problem solve as they decide how, with what, and with whom they will play. They think outside of the box and create something to do when it seems there is nothing.

And, Dr. Stuart Brown contends, play is not just for children. Humans are biologically designed to play — for a lifetime. Benefits extend into adulthood and include mental flexibility, stress release, and just plain happiness.

So find time for you and your children to play — together and on your own. We can all reap the benefits!

Additional Resources:

The National Institute for Play

Want to Get Your Kids Into College? Let Them Play. {CNN.com}

Stuart Brown Says Play is More than Fun {TED Talks}

Effort To Restore Children’s Play Gains Momentum {New York Times}

Tim Brown on Creativity and Play {TED Talks}

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