The Importance of Play in Children's Lives

Is it possible playtime helps develop children into contributing members of society, as well as into collaborative and critical thinkers that will lead us into the next 20 years and beyond?

To further study this topic, approximately 70 early childhood professionals joined together during a symposium highlighting the importance of play in children’s lives. The event was hosted by the Joliet area Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) along with Advocates United for Joliet in Illinois at the Silver Cross Hospital on Oct. 17, 2012.

As a panelist at the symposium, I was asked to share my insights on play. As Albert Einstein once said, “Play is the highest form of research.” Think about it. How do you learn about the world around you? Is it by completing worksheets and regurgitating information?

Children learn by doing; even children as young as 3-years-old are already learning fractions through their everyday activities. If you have four cookies and there are two children, I am positive they will find a way to evenly share them or give half to each. Math is no longer a difficult hurdle or a bad four-letter word, but now it is just a natural part of life.

As we consider the important skills in life, ABC’s and 123’s come naturally from children’s play.  They learn these, for example, through their navigation of block area and through conversations in dramatic play. If a child were to only want to play in block areas, as a teacher, make sure to incorporate math and language into that area.

By simply adding tape measures, clipboards and some examples of blueprints, you are incorporating different areas of learning. Sit back and just watch children interact and problem solve together when trying to balance one block on top of another. Don’t solve the problem for them, but let them discover and work as a team. After all, this is our true goal for children, to be collaborative community members that contribute to society. 

In a poem I received when I first started teaching, the words of “Just Playing” ran through my head.  Here is one paragraph of that poem written by Anita Wadley:

When I’m building in the block room, please don’t say I’m “Just Playing”.  For, you see, I’m learning as I play; about balance and shapes. Who knows, I may be an architect someday.

Let a child play today. You never know what he or she might become one day.

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Julie Lawrence is the Academic Dean at Rasmussen College in Mokena, Illinois. She has worked in the education field for more than 20 years. She continues to be an advocate for children through work in partnership with agencies such as CTTP and Advocates United for Joliet Children to help protect our future.

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