Monday, May 5, 2014

The Unqantifiable Benefits of Play

With the push for early academic success and the epidemic of developmentally inappropriate practices in today's schools, play is cut out of children's lives. Instruction time is added in place of recess for drilling, cramming, and memorizing so that a test can be passed, an award can be won, and a teacher can keep her job.  

"We have to get the children ready for (insert future grade level here_____)" is a phrase I hear too often in the field of education. In result, childhood's gift of living in the present is seized by the stress of living in the future. 

In an attempt to validate play and justify it's presence in the lives of children, we, as play advocates, are called to dissect and quantify to prove to parents, educators and politicians that it will ensure academic success. The message is clear, if it doesn't expedite emerging math, science and literacy skills, it's too risky to pursue. So, in the meantime the essence of play becomes lost in a sea of preschool, kindergarten, and college readiness.

YES, children learn math, science, and literacy skills best through play, but more importantly, the real magic of play is about educating the heart

Play educates the heart by...
  • providing an outlet for emotional release and understanding. 
  • allowing children to imagine the perspective of others (just a little thing called EMPATHY).
  • building community.
  • creating feelings of joy (we want our children to be happy right?)

It is my dream, that one day, nurturing the human spirit and educating the heart becomes a core priority in our schools. 

When I watch my daughter play,  I'm not worried if the time spent playing will ensure that she counts by preschool or reads in Kindergarten. But instead, I trust that play is doing more important work by helping her become a resilient, loving, and joyful person, thus opening her mind, body and soul for a deeper kind of learning. Learning so deep, it exists on a cellular level and refuses to be quantified.  

We are never more 
fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything than when we are playing."

-Charles Schafer

More on this topic...

The New Deficiency Formally Known as Childhood

Want to get your kids into college?  Let them play.

Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School

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