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The Importance of Play

18 Mar

A member of one of my many yahoo groups posted a link to an article. The article discussed the importance of imaginative play…not playing with store-bought toys, but of old-fashioned imaginative play, where children have to use their brains to make up games and scenarios using everyday household objects, or expanding the use of existing toys. It’s not just about learning though play, but also self-regulation, which apparently most children these days lack. Most toys, coupled with children’s television programmes, rid children of the trouble of having to think while playing. Give them a Bob the Builder play set and the child re-enacts the latest episode (often times word for word). Keeps ’em busy for about 10 minutes.

The article really had an impact on me. I knew my son was already quite imaginative…he can play for an hour with a laundry basket, using it as a helmet (testing its durability by bumping into things), a boat, a bed, a place to hide, a podium, and transportation for the cat. He can turn a laundry airer and blanket into a tent, a plate into a steering wheel, all the pillows and blankets into a ‘house’, cereal boxes into cars, After Eight boxes into trains…there’s just no stopping him. I had also managed to not fall too deeply into the toy trap. Yes, he has toys, but they’re things like blocks, legos, an easel, toy cars, Mr. Potato Head, marbles, dress up clothes, bike, and lots of arts and crafts stuff. He does have a few junky toys, things purchased in a weak moment or the very thoughtful (wink) gifts given by relatives.

But, I wanted to cut back on my child’s daily television viewing (about 2 hours a day, in total) with the goal of eliminating it completely, but I only got so far. Every morning my son would wake up, come down stairs, sit on the sofa, and wait for the tv to come on. He would not have breakfast without it. It was the same story for after his nap. Come down, sit down, stare at box. I offered to read him a story in place of his favourite shows, but that did not go down well. So, we ‘removed’ the tv. it’s still there, but it’s been covered by a scarf. This doesn’t usually work for most people, but luckily for us it did. That’s not to say he doesn’t watch any tv, but it is limited to documentaries and Top Gear (his favourite). We also no longer have to battle over his wanting some rubbish toy he’s seen advertised. Two for the price of one.

I also wanted to develop his imagination further. I got a great book from the library. I made a list of games from the book, and from the Early Learning Centre website, which has an imaginative play section with tons of free ideas. I compiled the list into a booklet which I printed off and put into a binder. It’s now accessible and I refer to it every day for fun imaginative games that my son really enjoys.

The article was also comforting; I was also quite relieved to know that talking to oneself is both normal and healthy. My son caught me talking to myself and asked me to whom I was speaking. I told him, ‘Just myself.’ Since then, whenever he catches me he says, ‘Are you talking to yourself again?’ I didn’t realize how often I did it until he kindly brought it to my attention. He, too, has begun talking to himself. I don’t say anything; I’m afraid he’ll stop.

‘Play is the beginning of knowledge’ –George Dorsey


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