Wednesday’s post on play was a long one, but there is so much more to be said about the value of play. After I wrote that post, I turned back to my Growing Kids God’s Way book and got a better understanding of all the various components of a child’s development that are positively affected by play. Let me leave you with a few quotes:
“Play, whether a child does it by himself, in a small group, or with Mom at the park, is one of the most underestimated and often misunderstood components of a child’s healthy, developing cognitive world. Play creates learning opportunities and experiences that uniquely connect a child to his world, which otherwise could not be obtained. Through play, a child is first introduced to problem-solving techniques, development of moral and social skills, improved motor coordination, logic, reasoning, and strategy. Plus, play has educational and therapeutic benefits. Play complements and reinforces gender identification and encourages appropriate risk-taking.
“Overall, play is the single most important means by which a child connects with his world and the people around him,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 232).
I wholeheartedly agree with the Ezzos’ emphasis on imaginative play in particular. Does your child turn a stick into a wand? Does a blanket become a queen’s robe?
“At three years of age, make-believe and other imaginative activities begin to occupy an important place in the child’s mental world. Imagination will do what curiosity cannot. It will carry a child beyond the boundaries of time and space. It can take him to places he has never been. He can move mountains with his imagination and test his own feelings without fear of reprisal. Through the imaginative process, a child gives life to inanimate objects, while assuming a controlling role as chief operator of his own play,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 232).
Such pretend play is important for a few reasons:
“Imaginative, emotional play is freeing to your child. Such play allows him to test his desires, fears, and hopes without the risk and hardships of judgments and boundaries associated with reality. He is able to think outside the boundaries of logic, reason, and reality. He is able to manage and direct ideas that only he understands and he does it in fragmented ways. He can take a big box and a blanket, make it become Davy Crockett’s fort.
“To have expectations based on the belief of what will happen tomorrow, a child must be able to imagine. Imagining what will happen next, good or bad, is part of the thinking exercise of our humanity,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 234).
Think of the various effects of a child’s environment. A child who is encouraged to complete worksheets (Kumon style) during his free time develops into a completely different child than the one who is allowed to play imaginatively.
I’m reminded of something my sister, a Waldorf teacher, once said to me regarding imaginative play. Kids who imagine have ideas. Kids who do worksheets aren’t given the opportunity to create. Ask yourself: do you want your child to become an adult who can code a software program, or do you want your child to be the one who develops the idea for the software program?
It all comes back to the importance of imaginative play.