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Why is play so important?

Why is play so important?

Think about your best memories of being a child and bet you one or more of them will include as aspect of play.

Personally, I remember spending hours and hours riding bikes up and down the hill outside my gran and grandad’s house with my brother, always being lost in some sort of role play game we were playing. I remember one of these times, we would ride our bike from the top, all the way to the river at the bottom and pretending we had fallen in because we were going too fast. Of course, we didn’t fall in (we weren’t allowed to go into the river or across it on our own – we did often cross it with help and it was always an adventure).  I remember bath times where I would pretend I was the presenter of a cooking programme. I remember playing with my ponies on the arm of the sofa. I remember at school acting out The Lion King with my friend on those seemingly endless summer lunchtimes. 

Fast forward twenty years and I am waiting for the arrival of my first child, imagining all the fun play times we will have together. I am buying her toys upon toys, but they are secretly (not so secretly!) for me too. I LOVE having the chance to spend some guilt-free time playing with Duplo or wearing the dragon wings from her dress up box. I love it because it brings a sense of calm, it is a time to be still and be away from the ever growing laundry monster in the other room. 

I guess what I am trying to say is – play is fun. It’s enjoyable. And it seems that being an adult means that I now must to be boring and serious all the time. I feel guilty if I spend some much-needed time lost in another world brought to me by play. I could have used that time better by doing the dishwasher or the hoovering. 

Why is play so important?

I believe that play is the best way to learn. So many times in my classroom practice I have witnessed the children being totally unenthusiastic about learning their numbers or doing some writing. I spent a lot of my time as a teacher finding ways that children can learn without even realising they were learning. What once was a time to write out their numbers over and over, so that they get the correct formation, can be transformed by getting the children to draw the numbers with car wheels dipped in paint. I read recently that one of the best things you can do to help children play is to get immersed into another world with them and take it completely at their speed and where they want the play to go. Be positive to everything they suggest and try not to suggest anything yourself. I tried it and it was REALLY difficult. I found out that I am constantly, if unintentionally, giving my child negative messages in her play. I had to bite my tongue so many times when I was trying to suggest something better, or a different way of doing it. But do you know what? We ended up getting lost in a world where we were hairdressers, builders and dragons – I didn’t even know she knew the word hairdresser! I learnt more about my daughter by really listening to her. We spent over an hour just playing. Which is a huge amount of time for a two-year-old. I had such a fun time and she got a lot out of it. I ended the day so calmly and I felt positive about things that before were weighing on my mind. 

I believe that play is the best way to work through tough or confusing emotions. I remember being on the playground when I was in about 9. We were role-playing mummies and daddies as usual when I decided that I needed to be really upset in the game and admit to everyone that I had just had an abortion. I don’t even know if I knew that it even meant, but I had obviously seen it on TV or somewhere and knew it could be something to be upset about. I needed to play through this to help to make sense of it. To this day, I still go through important conversations in my head over and over before the moment arrives. That’s play. It’s not the fun play I described earlier, but it’s still play, and it’s still important. 

I believe that play is for everyone. What’s so wrong with enjoying yourselves? Playing with a child is not only fun, but it validates what they are doing. If they see you are doing it with them and you are having a good time, they think that they are doing something good themselves and want to do it more and more. Which can only be a good thing. 

I am at a point in my life now where I am going to be saying no to the assessments and testing, and yes to more play! I am going to be able to share this passion with other parents and hopefully persuade them that making a child sit still at a desk to write is not necessarily the best way. I am so passionate about this, and I am so excited! Play is at the heart of all Story Frog teachers and I cannot wait to get started. 

Let kids be kids! 

If you are interested in classes taking place in West Suffolk and South Norfolk contact thestoryfrogabi@gmail.com, take a look at my website page https://www.thestoryfrogphonics.com/bury-st-edmunds, or my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/The-Story-Frog-Phonics-Bury-St-Edmunds-and-the-surrounding-area-965941167070725/

Article By Abi Clarke

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