“Play isn’t the enemy of learning, it’s learning’s partner. Play is like fertilizer for brain growth. It’s crazy not to use it”.
As I teach CDA (Child Development Associate credential classes) and workshops for early childhood educators in Oklahoma, I am often struck by how often they do not see play as an important part of learning. In one of the classes on play that I teach, I have them recall a recent play episode that they observed and write it down. Then we look in the Oklahoma Early Learning Guidelines for the child’s age and check for things the child learned during the recorded play episode. They are often astounded at how much children can learn from play and come away starting to realize how important play is. I think we all know in theory that play is important, but unless we have the ability to back it up and explain it to parents and others who may not realize it, then we get drawn into the “we have to do worksheets and rote drills” to teach them rabbit hole and that is not a fun or pleasant place to be.
Just for a moment, think back to your own schooling. What are the things you remember best from school? What lessons stuck with you? Do you remember the dates you memorized for each war or other significant historic event? Do you remember all the state capitals? We tend to remember the things that interest us or that we were taught in an engaging way. I remember lots of lessons from my Home Ec classes because they were so hands-on and practical. I can tell you lots of things I have learned about play over the years because it is a topic that grabbed my attention and I have researched it out of my own interest. Reading and learning about play is play for me because I find it so engaging!
We have got to give children (and ourselves!) the chance to play! How are you going to play today?