The Lost Art of Playing

When my kids were little they played.  I mean really played.  In the summertime they were outside after breakfast, in for lunch and back out until dinner time.  They got dirty, went on adventures and used their imaginations.  Life was sweet back then.

My boys played Little League Baseball during the summer and they swam every day.  There were no organized activities to shuttle them to...with the exception of baseball games and Bible School.  Life was simple back then.

The only electronic device that my kids had access to was a television.  And they didn't sit in front of it every day.  They did not have I-Pads, computers or cell phones.  They went to the library and checked out books and played games of Monopoly that lasted weeks at a time.  Those were the days when children knew how to play and use their imaginations.            

"Playing" is a lost art.  And...It is underrated.  Underrated by parents and educators alike.  I should know since I have been both.  When I was teaching, the administration announced one day that our students would only be given one fifteen minute recess a day.  WHAT?!  Obviously these people were out of touch with those in the classroom who spent all day with the little darlings.  We were told that recess truly was not necessary.  I beg to differ.

If you remember recess as I do, you will recall all the benefits of it:

1.  Imagination.  Children need to pretend.  That is a very important part of childhood and if
                             nurtured properly can lead to real success in the classroom.  How?  Well, what
                             about those creative writing exercises?  Or art projects?  Don't you remember how
                             much fun it was to escape from reality for a brief moment during recess where you
                             could "pretend"?  I'm sure recess and play time perhaps prepared many a child for
                             little theater, drama club or some even an acting career later in life.
2.  Conflict Resolution.  Children need to learn how to resolve conflicts among their own peers.
                                         They make up  games to play that allows them to create rules and follow                                                      
                                         them and to also resolve any conflicts that may arise during those  
                                         activities.  Disagreements are not always a bad thing.  Children need to
                                         learn how to solve problems.  Is this not a skill that can be carried with
                                         them throughout life?                                        
3.  Discovery.  Remember the moment whenever you discovered something you never knew?  That
                         "Aha" moment?  Children learn from being outside in nature.  There are so many
                          things that can be "discovered" on their own from unorganized play.  Think about all
                          of the things that can turn into "teachable moments" just from playing outside.
                          Rocks, leaves, flowers, frogs, butterflies and the list goes on and on.
4.  Exercise.  Whenever my children were young, people never heard much about childhood obesity.
                       Perhaps, that was partially because children got outside and PLAYED.  They ran
                       around and got exercise without even knowing it.  It was just a part of life.  As for
                       running around at recess time during school, this "running around" can be used to get
                      out that pent up energy children have from sitting at a desk all day.  Think about it...Do
                      you, as an adult, get up and move around during the day?  I'm sure you do not sit
                      focused at your desk without having to get up and stretch, move around, clear your
                      mind.  Think how much more a child needs to do that?
5.  Communication.  Communication skills are so important and although this generation is so
                                    very tech savvy, their communication skills are often times found wanting.
                                    Social media and electronics, I believe, is at the very heart of the problem.
                                    How many times have you seen children playing on their parents' cell phone
                                    in a restaurant while waiting for their food?  Or in church while they could be
                                    participating in the the singing or listening to the sermon.  These are the sort of
                                    things that bring up discussions and create communication between people.
                                    How many relationships do you think suffer these days from the lack of
                                    communication?

Yes, play is very underrated indeed.  It's my opinion that children are not allowed to be children any more.  Parents and educators expect them to grow up too quickly.  How many times have you heard, "They are a wonderful student but they are a bit immature"?  And I'm always confused by that statement.  Isn't a five year old supposed to be immature?   Do we really want our children to grow up so quickly that they miss the joy of just being a child?  The one time of their lives that is filled with make believe and wonder?  Let them discover THE LOST ART OF PLAYING!
                                 

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