Advice from a teacher for parents, grandparents,or caregivers
I’m giving advice this summer in place of my Tuesday is for Teachers, referring to the children you care for as “your” children.
Following a flashlight over a path in-the-darkest-dark after fireworks.
Glow sticks bounce in front of me, all around me. Shouts of children:
“Where are the boys?”
“Let’s go this way and hide!”
Their endless energy even after 9:00 P.M! This group of kids just finished water play with giant squirt guns, slip n’ slide, and baby pools. After watching a fabulous fireworks display, they were ready to go again with their glow sticks. This evening began with a family and friends bicycle/stroller parade around the farm and a bicycle rodeo. Taking a break for hot dogs and hamburgers, the action began again!
Unstructured or loosely organized play has receded from the lives of many American children. Recess has decreased or completely eliminated in the elementary schools in my area. What a loss for the development of young bodies and minds! Headlines in today’s paper say our school system is considering “Reclaiming Recess”.
It’s about time!
Recess is essential! Parents know it. Teachers know it. Children know it!
Dr. Stuart Brown is founder and president of the National Institute for Play. As you may suspect, he has definite opinions about children and adults and play. He describes play as “spontaneous eruption of joy and pleasure” or “anything that spontaneously is done for it’s own sake.”
Think of a mother or father and their infant in play: both parent and infant experience joy and pleasure in a smile or soft coo.
He also talks about play as appearing to be purposeless, but play sometimes means taking risk. Risk is scary to adults in the 21st century. By removing all risk from children’s play there is not room for spontaneity. So we must balance risk and opportunity for spontaneity.
Other researchers have found free, unregulated play generates creativity, imagination, and sheer joy. Vanderbilt Associate Dean, Sharon Shields clearly states there is a relationship between physical activity and cognitive readiness and cognitive development. In other words, play is the work of a child. Children learn to negotiate cooperate, share, problem-solve in free play.
Preschool educators recognize the importance of play and not so many years ago it was always part of the kindergarten day as well as most of the early grades in elementary school. Let’s hear it for RECESS!
I am thankful the “powers that be” are recognizing the importance of play in the daily lives of children.
What a great God who designed us, children and adults, to need play as a part of a balanced life.
Have you found joy in play lately?
Quotes from Dr. Brown came from the June 18, 2014 NPR program On Being. Statements from Vanderbilt professor came from The Tennessean, July 8, 2014.