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The Importance of Play

By Lois Hunt, Rivendell Early Childhood Director and Teacher

Today at recess, I observed three children sitting in the sandbox shovelingRivendell Recess sand into various size buckets and then placing the buckets on the wall next to them. When another child joined the group with a bucket of pinecones and twigs, they talked excitedly for a couple of minutes before all of the children began mixing the pinecones and twigs with the sand. To an onlooker, this interaction may seem like just a fun time when, in actuality, through these playful interactions, children are learning important lessons about the world around them.

Play is more than the passing of leisure time. It is fundamental to the process of learning. Children do not need to be taught to play. Play is how babies first learn about their world and as they get older, they learn communication and social skills, math, science, engineering, physics, art, creativity, and problem-solving. Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, said, “The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.”

It is important to allow your child time for unstructured play. Group play of all kinds helps children build important social skills. Children learn about interpreting tone of voice and reading facial cues. They build empathy, learn to share and take turns, lead and follow, and negotiate and resolve conflicts. Individual play brings children self-awareness (strengths and weaknesses), autonomy, a chance to explore, be creative, and take risks.

Play leads children to discovery. For example, the children I observed in the sandbox filled a giant bucket with sand and could not lift it to put it on the wall. They solved their dilemma by working together to lift the bucket and maybe next time, they won’t fill the bucket as high. Play also leads to the discovery of scraped knees, hurt feelings, and lost toys which is also important. It is important for children to experience trial and error and failures and successes and learn how to negotiate these times in a safe arena.

Next time you’re at the park, or watching your child play, give them a little extra time. While reading, writing and other academic subject learning is important, the process of play allows a child to discover, invent, apply previous learning, problem-solve, and build strong bodies and minds to become confident and competent individuals.

At Rivendell, we believe play is important for all ages, to learn more about all the opportunities our students have to play please visit our admissions page.