The Hidden Lessons in Child's Play
tyke the colorful wooden blocks children enjoy. play comes in many hues and shapes. Children may play alone or with others, quietly or with laughter or with deep concentra tion. But while the fundamental goal of play is fun --- simply to enjoy the pleasures of the moment - indirectly it accom pleber much more
Every kind of play forms the foundation for future learning, by providing children opportunities to develop basic skills, sheet confidence and an enthusiasm for learning more. Just as a tower of blocks will stand sturdy and tall if built on a solid base, a child's success in future learning relics on a firm foundation established through carly childhood play
Consider, for example, the range of skills and concepts in volved in constructing a toy railroad and village like the one illustrated below. By placing the track together. designing.a shoe-box tunnel to accommodate the train and building a sta- tion from blocks, the children practice eye hand coordination learn about the relative sizes of objects and engage in symbolic thinking and problem solving exercises. They are being cre ative too, making up a story to match the scene And by talking among themselves as they play they are developing language skills as well as learning to make decisions cooperatively
While a free form activity such as this one is often instructive in a number of different arcas, young learners can also benefit from a range of more special ly focused games, exercises and mind stretching experiments Reasoning, cres ativity and conceptualizing are all devel oped through certain kinds of play activities, as are communication skills and physical coordina Lion Once the foundation is set for these key skills, they will last a lifetime
Children begin to learn about the world around them through play as in- fants - batting toys.ex. perimenting with food, giggling at pat-a cake Later on, as their capa bilitics grow, children will amuse themselves for hours with simple repetitive tasks such as stacking colorful blocks and roll ing balls. In the process the youngsters are exploring such concepts is ip Children will also explore emotions through play, desi and distance, Cause and effeCT make believe routines to master what is exciting pleasure Intimidating to them A toddler who has been thrilled frightened by a carnival pony ride, for eXample, me home and pretend to ride a toy horse, picnic bench or substitute pony over and over again, playing out the even himself in control, until the experience no longer holds ments that upset him,
Play is a way to explore future roles, too. By two ac cnjoy donning adult clothing and playing make believe later she will be interested in the garb of certain profile Trying on outfits, she tries on what it would be like Brown-up woman, a doctor, an astronaut
Gradually, play begins to include other children, l groundwork for social skills such as cooperatiei and Five year olds delight in the funilar group games -- green light, hopscotch and tag- activities that require the relinquish some of their egocentric behavior in cu the grown-up pleasures of camaraderie i
The pages that follow contain a wide variety of activity five broad skill areas - for children up to six vegan d suggested appropriate ages. These are flexible resume tions Fach child learns at her own rate and will often de ability in one area at a time, letting other areas lag behind on porarily while not every activity will interest every chrom probably will be a few in cach category that your children pletenible and enriching.
Whichever activities you choose - tupping at growing plants from seeds, playing catch - It is important to give your child friendly, nonjudgmental support You prohe do this quite naturally in a number of ways
Kit insurance, listening is a simple but very significant wert showa child you think his play is meaningfu Byporn. attention when he talks to you about his activities a asking questions that encourage his son versation, you are sending your chili message that you take him sena lv. This confirms his heller inte value of what he is doing Wito listening to your young member that children think ferently from adults They cler focus on only one char teristic of an obect crent, and the difficulty of secing points of view het than their own tber way to show interest and by joining your child in play he wants help or a companion. En will be letting him know care at&t his activities enough i icipate in them, you also will be aling sur own playful side, clo ntly demonstrating that you think p s worthwhile. To cultivate an in chdent spirit in your child-and e ability to take the initiative give ha plenty of opportunity to choose at the two of you will play Natural will be the one who introduces e activities in this chapter, hut he the probably develop some favorites them on his own if you are receptive
Aure, stimulating environment important to your child's play For an infant, this may mean soft toys ortul curtains, an eye-catching mo e A toddler needs a safe home caplore and toys that meet his creasing desire to manipulate things-a small bench for pounding for instance, or a toy on wheels full later a box of your old comes will spurk pretend play. awill dolla, simple train sets and equipment for playing house
than instructions Siw support ant interes for the pro Cess of play do not resenhand smilestremis Be sensitive to vour childhood h omines cildreti necd to try, secret al withour witching
Real shies entre children more ta ncy, micky tuys pans, onid roomy cartons hsld yor ch teitiois for a intention for a much lolgo tire than the lat Ct Dechaniwonder toy Mosi of the activities in this chapter use very m ple equipment- pur ol irpu put a purper crayons, water shaving cream. kitchen staples, books
Because disorder and clutter are confusing, they can discourage play so show your child how to store mate as when hc is finished with them Dat avoid creating an atmosphere in which order is more important than pleasure children need the freedom to make messes and get dirty
Finally, while a child should have his own private place to play do not limit activities to one corner of the house. A spontaneous round of hide and seek on the living room floor o an impromptu symphony with kitch en utensils are too much fun for cither you or your child to miss
Even at an early age, a child may show a noticeable preference and ability for one kind of play over oth ers - drawing, for instance, or exam ining insects When this happens it is atural for parents to conclude that their child possesses a special tal- ent in that area and perhaps to begin harboring the hope that the talent will tilossoms and lead to great things Talent, in its earliest manifestations may be simply defined asa skill at which a child excels- and derives pileasure from performing But the issue of childhood talent is a delicate one, requiring you to balance watching for and nurturing a particular aptitude on the one hand, with pro- vitding a range of activities and toys for your child to choose front out the other.
For example, if the musical activities in this chapter are the ones your child approaches with the greatest ease and enthusi ast you will certainly want to give him plenty ot opportunities to make and listen to music and to challenge tim with advanced activities His skill and pleasure in this the area, if'allowed to grow.can bring him a great deal of satistaction and joy, now and when he is an adult, even if he never bectinies a professional musician. But you also will want to provide him with chances to build with blocks, paint a picture, learn tO jump, hear a story, play charades Childhood is a time to investigate life and its innumerable possibilities, and play is the way that children carry out the bulk of their investigations.