“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” -George Bernard Shaw
The Early Education Center (EEC) focuses on the importance of play in a child’s life. We are a “play based” program, which means we allow children to choose the activities they want to do throughout the day. We create provocations and invitations to play in our daily curriculum to peak children’s interest and meet all their developmental needs. It may look like the children are just playing, but by giving them the option to choose activities to freely explore and create, they are able to learn and explore at their own level and pace.
“Play (or some available free time in the case of older children and adolescents) is essential to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth” (Kenneth R. Ginsburg, American Academy of Pediatrics)
So, what does play look like and mean? Well, play to a child means it is truly child led. Adults can certainly join in the fun, and as preschool teachers, we do just that! But do not be mistaken, we do not just play all day. We observe what the children are showing interest in and provide materials and create an environment that support those interests and enhances their development. The best way to get to know the children in your life is to observe how they play! Are they builders by nature? Bring in blocks, boxes, and any kind of building materials into the house and watch them create magic! Find ways to make it challenging and exciting. Do they love art? Set up an art station with all the art materials you can think of. Steer away from coloring books or projects that only lead to one finished product. We often use recycled materials and allow them to build and create 3D art projects. The key is to keep everything open ended. The more open ended, the more children will explore and discover new ways to use materials.
Take a minute to watch a child who is doing imaginary play. You will often see them acting out real life events, like playing doctor and giving shots, or playing house with the arrival of a new baby. This is the child’s way of navigating through their world. You can expand on this type of play by providing materials for them to use. Bring in doctor’s kits (bonus points if you use real life tools or wooden materials), dress up clothes, or anything that can bring out their imagination.
The biggest take-away we hope you get from this information is that all children deserve the right to play. They are going to spend most of their adolescent life sitting at a desk doing standardized curriculum that doesn’t offer a lot of creativity or exploration. Give them ample opportunities to be free and enjoy their childhood. It may not look like it, but they are learning a lot more than you may think!
We have included some pictures of some of the amazing creations our children have done here at the EEC when given open ended materials that allow them to freely explore and imagine.
Here is a list of articles that talk about the importance of play and what it does for their development.