Children and Play
As children grow, their important job is to play. You may be thinking I’m crazy, but the benefits of play in early childhood prove that having time in the day dedicated to play will only help them in the future. Children are playful by nature and it starts at a very young age. As babies learn to touch things and grow their fine motor skills, they are learning to play with objects. I mean, think of all the toys that are offered to toddlers. Majority of them are used for play but what we don’t realize is that the brain is working as they play with toys. The brains senses are in full effect as they learn to play with new objects. The only question is, with all the pressure to prepare children for kindergarten, how will play fit into the picture?
Types of Play
As I work with the preschoolers in my placement, I notice the amount of time dedicated to play and the different types of play. With the question of how we can find time to implement play in mind, I observed my class to see when play best fits in the day. What I saw really surprised me. Over half of my preschoolers day involves some form of play. Not every preschool classroom is going to be like this but that is the whole point of me making this blog post! Teachers are often overwhelmed with all of the criteria young children need before entering kindergarten without realizing how easy it is to implement play in every lesson. The students in my classroom start their day by doing more informal teaching but around 10:30 it is already time for gym/playground time. During this time, the children are encouraged to do whatever physical activity play they are interested in. Physical play involves using the body to play with balls, run, jump, etc. Let me tell you, the kids love this time of day. I get worn out from just watching them!
After gym we go into our learning centers. Children get into groups by their “color” (each child has a name tag with a colored lanyard”. There are two centers with play that are picked out by the teacher and then the other two centers are with the preschool teachers. My classroom is luck enough to have two people assigned to the room. In the play groups, there is usually a game that involves the use of play with other learning areas. For example, my students the one day I was observing were playing a fishing game where the rod had a magnet and could attach to fish. When talking to my co-op about the benefits of this, she stated that, “It is a great way for them to have fun but it also grows their fine motor skills! They are working on writing their names and all of those other common things that go along with fine motor, but this allows them to have a good time while being gentle enough to use the fishing rod and catch the fish!” (Ms. Carol, YMCA Preschool). I would define this example as manipulative play because the children are required to hold and handle small toys.
Later on in the day, my students are given the time for choice centers. This involves the students choosing whatever center they would like to get their creative juices flowing. Some centers available include thedramatic playcenter and the creative playcenter. In the dramatic play center, the children are able to play in a kitchen or in a dentist setting. There are also baby dolls available to students to play house with. Dramatic play allows children to “fantasy-play” as if they are a role in society or the real world. In the creative play center, children are encourage to play with arts and crafts. This includes markers, paints, white boards, etc. In the article, How Important is Play in Preschool by GreatSchools Staff, it is stated that, “Through play, children develop skills they’ll use in their school years.” (GreatSchools Staff, 2013).
Not only does play allow children to grow through their learning, it teaches them how to socialize. Most of the children in my classroom are extremely respectful to each other. If someone wishes to change roles in the dramatic play area, they take turns. In this day of age, most children go home and have little interaction with others. I can’t count the many instances where my 7-year-old brother has come home and gone directly to the Xbox. We live in a time where technology is increasing and it is extremely important for children to learn to socialize with others in real life. In the article, How Important is Play in Preschool by GreatSchools Staff, the author goes on to show the importance of social play by sharing, “Listening, negotiating, and compromising are challenging for 4- and 5-year-olds. Though children at this age are still egocentric, or unable to think beyond their own needs, working with others helps them develop an awareness of differences in people around them. These experiences in preschool provide a foundation for learning how to solve problems and communicate with peers.” (GreatSchools Staff, 2013). If we start young, children will only succeed in the long run.
Alright, alright, I am probably boring you with all my teacher talk. But, the most important thing you can take away from this article is that play is important. Play impacts the way children learn and grow in more ways than we think. If you have children or are in the field for teaching, take the times to look at preschools in your area and assess how much time in the day is actually devoted to play. The settings that allow lots of time for play will not only prepare students to work appropriately with others, but to also prepare them to go into school with a love for learning based on past experiences.
“Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.” -Diane Ackerman
References: GreatSchools Staff, (2013, January 15). How Important is Play in Preschool? Retrieved from https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/play-in-preschool/