If I know one thing from years of parenting it is that I treasure as much as the children do those times when they use their imaginations and create a new game or activity that sometimes can even evolve into a whole new world even when using the same raw materials each time simply from the source of their own minds and imaginations.
How I love this quote “Play is the work of children”….. J. Piaget
It encompasses so much about the very nature of children and how they learn.
I feel sorry for those children who are not given those opportunities to play as they go on the endless round of activity after activity to school and homework. Their lives as adults already in existence as children.
The most important skills that children everywhere need to learn for their lives to be happy, productive, and to live deeply moral lives are skills that cannot be taught. These skills are what they learn while playing. What types of skills are learnt?
To think creatively, to get along with other people and be able to cooperate as well as to control their own impulses and emotions.
Our society seems bent on creating little adults of our children, giving them limited 'free time' and expecting them to mature faster and faster and being little clones of the adult world.
The expectations that are placed upon our children academically at an earlier and earlier age.
The fact the most Early Childhood Daycare Centers are emphasising the 'early learning' the children will get when enrolled.
Rarely is it a play environment and I believe it fosters a competitiveness at a much earlier age than necessary.
If my child does not start reading before .......then she will be at a disadvantage in the future!
If my child does not attend .......then this will affect his future career!
This does not mean we cannot help each child to better them selves at something or to play competitively. But the competitiveness need to be about bettering ourselves not at the belittling of another's work or efforts, even in the competing of sides against another.
Obviously younger children don't work this out to start with, but still the growing happens and it does help them as they continue to play and to develop.
Play is universal and imagination is normal for children.
We can foster this with activities and lifestyle choices to help our children or we can limit them with no opportunities for this type of play or perhaps limiting them to computer games, TV and other less messy 'play'
Oh my yes it does!
So for this reason only it can be a reason in some eyes not to foster the type of play.
Imaginative play does need tidying up and that can impinge on schedules that need to be met.
Better to just get the kids to sit down and play a non messy game.
Of course like everyone else we have succumbed to the "It's a madhouse I can't think- turn on a DVD for the children to watch so I can get something done!" syndrome.
I myself love to watch a great movie with my Beloved or the older children. I love a great mini-series and the relaxation that comes from that too.
I can do other activities as well and I do believe that what children play as children and especially teens they tend to use that some type of activity for relaxation as adults.
So I would like to think that we are helping our children to think outside the box - literally. To do more with the free time they have as young adults than simply turning on a box of one sort or another.
Do many of them go for a walk just to be outside?
Do they plan picnics and go to local events together just to spend time and make memories together?
I sadly think this type of activity is disappearing and that the young children of today will have even less chance of this as they become conditioned to going to constant round of structured events and being 'guided' in how to use the free time they have that they will not know how to use any time they have unless they have an organised activity.
We all have spent lots of busy time on the computer or in front of TV only to realise that what we have actually done is fill in time but not achieve anything creative or useful.
Now I know that not all time has to be counted as useful or creative but the more time we actually spend in 'fill in' time the more we accept this to be normal.
Outdoors is one of my favourites but indoors can be just as imaginative if we provide the time and effort to encourage this....
Activities that don't require us to passively allow others to fill our mind with thoughts and ideas rather than using our minds to actively engage in our situation.
It is a well documented fact that the dramatic decline in children’s opportunities to play has seen an equally dramatic increase in childhood mental disorders.
So sad when most of this could be avoided by actually allowing creative and imaginative play
We all carry remnants of our childhood with us and so we can give our children the best opportunities to use these for their benefit or sadly we can restrict the way in which our children best grow, by restricting play and as such effectively limit the children as they grow to be all that they are capable of.
So no I don't believe our children don’t need more structured learning or even structured activities. They definitely need more play. It isn't just for our children but for our children's children that we need to encourage creativity and imaginative play.
I have heard the term 'give childhood back to children' before and seriously we do need to allow our children to be exactly that - children. We must allow children to pursue that which comes naturally to them to play and explore so they can use this 'play/learning' to grow into strong adults in the ways that matter: intellectually, emotionally and socially.
Here are some more quotes by others to inspire you to recognise the true value of childhood play:
Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning. –Fred Rogers
Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity. -Kay Redfield Jamison
Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn. -O. Fred Donaldson
When children pretend, they’re using their imaginations to move beyond the bounds of reality. A stick can be a magic wand. A sock can be a puppet. A small child can be a superhero. -Fred Rogers
It is in playing, and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self. -D.W. Winnicott