Play, The Abandoned Requirement of Childhood

A Gourmet Breakfast

Playing in mud

Mud. The friend of play and of white carpet.

I’d like to start our homeschooling school day at 8:30 in the morning.  But, geesh, after I make the gourmet breakfast of spinach quiche, almond flour toast, and poached pears with raspberry sauce, make all the beds, sort and fold up all of the laundry, call my mother, French-braid my daughters’ hair, have coffee with the friend who stopped by for a few minutes and read our daily devotions, it ends up being more like 9:45 in the morning or 10.  I’m a bit ashamed.  I know you all get this done, plus shovel the snow out of the driveway, and still start by 8:45.  Probably because you make your children help you with it.  I know.

I don’t make my children help me with all of this in the morning.  I should.  I know.  They’re going to grow up to be lazy mothers.  But, I get it all done myself so much more quickly if I just let them–

(Shhhh…Let’s whisper this word…I know there are neighbors watching out their windows to see if my kids do school…They’ll report me to the authorities if they see too much of this going on before noon…And then there’ll be a social worker knocking at my door and I’ll have to implement the emergency plan we have for this scenario…Don’t answer the door and pretend you don’t see them or hear them over the screaming baby and the roast cauliflower burning in the smoking oven.)–

PLAY.

At 7:30 in the morning, my kids are either up playing or reading.  Usually the older ones wake up reading, and the younger one soon wakes and begs them to PLAY.  (Shhh.)  And the ten-year old and the eight-year old soon jump right in to a game of Chuggle Monster, One-Two, Super Magic, or Hot Apple.  I’ve never heard of any of those games.  Have you?  Exactly.

Don’t Interrupt Successful Play

A child’s work is play.  Unstructured, honest to goodness play!  Play that does not include me.  I find it very hard to interrupt play time in the morning among my three daughters of different ages when they are getting along so well.  Learning to interact.  Compromising.  Getting along with all ages.  Using their imaginations.  Moving.  Spinning.  Sitting.  Creating.  So I let them play while I do all that cooking and cleaning.  My kids PLAY in the morning, and I let them.  A huge advantage to kids’ play is that you get so much done!  Ok.  Seriously, as much as I want to start school and get it finished early so I have some down time, I adore seeing my kids play.  More than anything, their play reassures me I’m raising happy kids.  At about 9:30 or 9:45 am we get around to doing math, grammar, and the works.

Play is More Than Play

Running up the stairs

No playing tag in the house.

It was Maria Montessori who said, “Play is the work of a child.”  It really is!  Without play, a child does not develop properly physically!  Last week I listened to two optometrists discuss how their optometry academies were recommending that children play outside for one hour a day to lessen nearsightedness!  And yesterday my sister sent me a link about children needing to play in order to help their body strength and vestibular systems to help lessen fidgeting, ADHD, and to promote learning:   Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today.  Do you laugh, cry, or fuss about how far away we have gotten from common sense when it comes to children?  Kids need to play (just like they need REAL food).  I’ve watched kids.  In many, physical strength is sub-par.  They can’t traverse a set of monkey bars.  They can’t climb a tree.

And think about it.  For all that must develop physically as a child, what must be developed socially and psychologically in childhood?  Sharing.  Caring.  Learning to stick up for yourself.  Learning to stick up for others.  Learning when to ask an adult for help.  Brainstorming.  Learning to amuse yourself when bored.  Learning to ask others to join you so you can have more fun.  Learning to ask others if you can join in.  Laughing.  Controlling anger.  I’ve found, you can learn a lot about a child by observing them interact with others in play.  Do you watch your child play with others?  I like to watch mine.  Are they leaders?  Followers?  Likable?  Not likable?  Boasters?  Shy?  Whiners?  Lazy?  Overbearing?  Sneaky?  Patient?  Kind?  Inclusive of all who want to play?

There is no substitute for child’s play.  Kids need to play.  Outside.  With other kids.  Without technology made to amuse them.  (Have you ever had a play date and the kids beg to watch TV or play a video game?  What in the heck?)  And organized sports don’t count in the younger ages.  Lots of kids are shoved into organized activities all year long.  Bad idea.  “Oh, sorry.  Johnny can’t come play because of soccer.”  Next month.  “Oh, sorry.  Johnny can’t come play because of basketball.”  Next month.  “Oh, sorry.  Johnny can’t come play because of baseball.”

Play makes messes.  It is loud.  It takes time away from the school day.  But I think learning how to play is one of the few things that are necessary to be learned in childhood.

Turn off the TV.  Take away the phone.  Put away the iPad.  Ban whatever the video games are called now from your home.  Put out some toys.  Some crafts. Even pillows and blankets are great fun.  Open the door and point to the swing set.  Encourage them to play.  Expect them to play.  Let them play.

Music and foreign languages may be easier to learn as children, but learning how to play tops them all.

I have two questions.  Do people think play has been abandoned?  (Or do they think all this increasing the school day length, decreasing recess time, and increasing organized activities is beneficial?)  And what else do you think is important to be learned at a young age and that may leave large gaps in psychology/emotions/spirituality if not taught or given?

~~Terri

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