Play is Children’s Work

Just a quickie today, it’s the weekend and I’ve got baseball games and birthday parties and guests coming and even though school is over, the grind continues.

And for those of you who may wonder, where did Amy go? It’s summer. That means I have at least 2 or 3 school-age kids every day who don’t nap. My precious naptime writing time has become: entertain the big kids so they don’t wake up the little ones who are napping time.

I will write when I can. Stay with me.

So why am I here to talk about play? Because someone came to my blog with this question:

How would you respond to people who say that children in child cares only play all day?

Um, I would say that that’s what they’re SUPPOSED to do?

And that at Amy’s House, besides feeding, changing, circle time, maybe a short activity, and telling them when it’s time to be in or out of the house, I stay back and let them do what they want.

The title of this blog is a quote that is widely attributed to Jean Piaget, a researcher who worked with children and was one of the first to tell the world – hey – lighten up – kids learn from what they do naturally, not from what we Really Smart and Wise Adults force on them. This is because their brains are different from ours, and their brains are growing by learning through play.

In researching that quote, I found all these quotes that are also really cool, and a good response to anyone who doubts the value of  play. In fact, because of that website, I have just discovered the National Museum of Play!?!?, where I sincerely think I need to plan my next vacation!

I think a lot of parents today have bought into the idea that we must start our Baby Mozarts early, and the day care must not only nurture and care for them, but also support the development of their genius brains (so if I’m not only changing diapers but growing geniuses, can I have a little bump in pay for that?).

Guess what – not everybody is a genius, and no amount of flash cards is going to change that. How about parents deciding that the best outcome for their child could be a healthy, well-adjusted, normal and average but happy life?

The state has been requiring more and more curriculum for years, and I understand the value in trying to quantify what we do on paper, so we can say “Look at all the great stuff we’re teaching kids!” But really, we don’t teach them so much as guide them. I make sure they’re not hurting each other, and then I sit back and let them do whatever they’re gonna do.

One of my favorite memories is of an early childhood professional who came to visit and observed my kids playing. They had the pieces of a wooden puzzle that were shaped like tools: a screwdriver, a hammer, tape measure, etc. But instead of doing the puzzle, they were laying on a blanket on the floor and it was checkup time at the doctor’s. The puzzle pieces had become the doctor’s tools, and the kids were all taking turns at checking and being checked. My visitor was amazed that we had come up with this game, and it was so nice that I let them use the puzzle pieces in this way instead of making them go back in the puzzle and back on the shelf.

I just thought, that would be silly. What would we play with if the pieces were on the shelf? And I had to admit, I didn’t come up with the game. They did.

All the best games we have in my day care – the kids made up. Honest to God. I can’t come up with half the stuff they do, and whatever they discover is infinitely more beneficial than anything I could invent. Because their brains are different than ours, remember? They know what they need far better than we do. So I just follow along and if they say they need dinosaurs, I find some dinosaurs. Simple as that. (And I’ll admit I’m pretty good at playing dinosaur.)

I also remember being in a toy store with my mother and sister. I was newly married but not even pregnant yet. I was looking at some cool outdoor toys and my mother, beaming, said to my sister, “Oh look she’s getting ready for when she has kids.” And my sister said, “Mom, she’s not looking for her kids.”

Sadly, that was true. I was looking because I liked the toys.

So anyone who criticizes the value of letting kids play doesn’t get it. If they want you to change your program for their child, maybe they need to find a “better” program. But know that the kids who are with you – maybe doing ridiculously illogical things – are doing exactly what they need to be in order to explore the world, and learn from it, and truly grow their brain (honestly).

While I’m sitting here typing away my two boys are doing their usual Saturday morning hangout in jammies routine. And Older just asked Younger, “Will you play with me Younger?”

6 thoughts on “Play is Children’s Work

  1. Pingback: Should You Put Your Child in Day Care? | Sitting On The Baby

    • So true…my oldest boy lost his only physical movement time this year. Used to be every other day, now once every third day. And they’ll be pulling their hair out over why all the boys are bouncing off the walls. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Pingback: Why UPK is a Bad Idea | Sitting On The Baby

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