I have been working on a workshop plan on using free play in preschool classrooms and it got me to revisit the concept of play. One thing that i have realized just based on my observations of my 3 kids is how important play is for them…it is not just play…it is work…important work for them. It is an opportunity for them to learn at a pace that they are comfortable at, a safe space for them to work on skills that they are trying to master. It allows them to develop socially, cognitively and emotionally…and of course physically.
Today, in a time of classes and courses and learning camps of all kinds in addition to school and private tuition classes, we seem to be rapidly and completely taking away the most natural learning experience from our children…that of play!
And when i say play, i am not talking about having fancy expensive toys and learning aids..certainly not flash cards and learning CDs…but just allowing kids to interact with each other and the natural environment around them in order to learn and grow and hone their skills.
While I try to structure some activities for my three boys everyday, we also have large chunks of free play time in the day where the boys gravitate to whatever they feel like doing…cars and a road map, playing with their kitchen set, painting, pretend play, puzzles and blocks. They climb onto furniture and jump of beds and couches…they try to turn somersaults and practice pouring from one glass into another. The twins have elaborate conversations and ‘bake’ cookies and cakes for each other, pretending to measure flour and sugar and milk and eggs. They put on pretend gloves to pull out yummy baked stuff or check each other out with a stethoscope. Just last week they were both pretending to be doctors and checkin each other…with Nish planning an elaborate surgery through the belly button for Sid who complained of having very hard potty.
It is a whole world of detailed fantasy and it seems alsmot criminal and stifling to take it away from them. As my kids get older and probably busier too, I need to keep this in mind and avoid falling into the trap of signing them up for a zillion classes just so they can do everything i couldn’t!