What is play and why is it important? When looking into the topic, “The Importance of Play,” each document seemed to be making the same main points. I found it to be summarized very nicely in the following poem. This poem was written by Anita Wadley in 1979, which points to the timelessness of the importance of play in childhood.
(Emphasis added by C. Jones)
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.
When I’m getting all dressed up, setting the table, caring for the babies, don’t get the idea I’m “Just Playing.” For, you see, I’m learning as I play; I may be a mother or father someday.
When you see me sitting in a chair, reading to an imaginary audience, please don’t laugh and think I’m “Just Playing.” For, you see, I’m learning as I play; I may be a teacher someday.
When you see me combing the bushes for bugs, or packing my pockets with choice things I find, don’t pass it off as “Just Play.” For, you see, I’m learning as I play; I may be a scientist someday.
When you see me engrossed in a puzzle or some “plaything” at my school, please don’t feel the time is wasted. For, you see, I’m learning as I play. I’m learning to solve problems and concentrate; I may be in business someday.
When you see me cooking or tasting food, please don’t think that because I enjoy it, it is “Just Play.” For, you see, I’m learning to follow directions and see differences; I may be a cook someday.
When you see me learning to skip, hop, run and move my body, please don’t say I’m “Just Playing.” For, you see, I’m learning as I play; I’m learning how my body works; I may be a doctor, nurse or athlete someday.
When you asked me what I’ve done at school today, and I say “I just played,” please don’t misunderstand me. For, you see, I’m learning as I play; I’m learning to enjoy and be successful in my work; I’m preparing for tomorrow.
Children of all ages learn through free play. They learn about their bodies, how to interact with others (and how not to), the excitement of making a discovery, how to be part of a group, and how to be by themselves.
Play is important for learning, and the adult’s role is to encourage play. When we get down on the floor and engage in play, we are role modeling skills that children are still learning. Sit on the floor and help build a tower or take that dandelion inside and inspect it more. How can you help children learn from their play? How can you help them prepare for tomorrow? It’s not just play, it is their work!
Whether you are a child care provider or a parent, you observe this learning happen on a daily basis with your children. Please share a story of watching a child learn or discover something for the first time. We would love to hear it!