As we are quickly approaching Christmas break and kids will have time off and will be acquiring new toys and activities during this Christmas season, I want to encourage parents and providers to let children play. Play can be defined and described in many different ways, but it is any activity that is done purely for pleasure. It often involves toys, but does not have to as long as it is the freedom and spontaneity to play unstructured with no set goals.
I know many parents understand the importance of play and letting their child be creative and use their imagination. The concerns I hear from many parents and is a concern in my own family at times is how to balance their children’s free/play time with the already busy planned activities such as sports, lessons, work, etc. I recently went to a National Early Childhood Education Conference and attended many workshops focused on play and the importance of allowing all ages to engage in free play where they can still show signs of development such as physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and language but they are doing it with joy and focus. This article is the beginning of a series of articles focusing on 10 Essential Play Experiences for a Joyous Childhood adapted from Ann Gadzikowski’s book “Creating a Beautiful Mess.”
So back to the concern I often hear about how to balance free play and our already busy scheduled lives. Children benefit from a variety of experiences and need variety. So if you are questioning whether they are spending too much time on their electronic or playing with dolls or Legos, spend an evening watching what your kids are doing? Is there variety and balance? I also want to challenge you this Christmas break to take time to play with your child and be present with them. Don’t worry, they will teach you how to play and bring out that creativity you never knew you had locked up inside you.
Enjoy the holidays and remember that experiences, no matter how big or little, will be the memories you and your child will remember for years to come.