LET THEM PLAY
written by Jean Magnuson from Dexterity Dough
I have some really good news for overwhelmed parents; just let them play! I know what some of you are thinking: you’re worried if you let your child play, he/she will be missing out on something of more educational or academic quality. I have more good news: the American Academy of Pediatrics believes “play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth. Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, physical, cognitive and emotional strength.” Yale, Harvard and Stanford all have studies on the importance of play and brain development. The science is clear and child development experts are screaming from the rooftops, “let them play!”
It’s important to understand the play I’m referring to does not involve a referee, coach, electronics, or an adult. I’m referring to open-ended play. It fosters creativity, imagination, and problem solving. Think wooden blocks, dress up clothes, a sand box or good quality play dough. I’m not talking about those play dough fun factory toys that squirt out French fries. And not a plastic bucket shaped like a castle you fill with sand and dump over and voila’, a sandcastle. No, I’m talking about sand, water and maybe even a little mud (yep, I said mud) to construct an actual castle.
Make an inviting play space for your child using calming colors and natural baskets so your child can easily reach art supplies and toys. Have plenty of plain paper, glue, tape, colors, markers and paint on hand. Include a child-sized coat rack for dress up clothes and a basket filled with interesting items like feathers, buttons, fabric and ribbon. And for the love of Pete (insert your child’s name here) spend time in nature! Lay on the grass, look at the shape of the clouds, find bugs, dig in the dirt…PLANT SOMETHING, ANYTHING!
And when you feel the desire to break out the flash cards, remember the words attributed to Albert Einstein: “Play is the highest form of research.”