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…time and space for free play.
I’m continuing my series on ways I would love to make a difference in the world. In previous posts I suggested an indoor play area not part of a fast food restaurant in every community and a bookshelf full of age appropriate books for every home. I’ve been thinking a lot about play as a necessary part of child development. I recently began reading Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen. He names three reason child desperately need play in their lives:
- To Connect, or Reconnect after connection has been severed
- To Build Confidence by role playing and practicing new skills in a safe environment
- To Heal from Emotional Distress by recreating the situation with different roles and outcomes
These are compelling reasons why children need generous amounts of free time to play, create, connect, imagine and discover the world around them and their position in that world. I see such potential in my little ones and I want more than anything to provide every opportunity to foster that potential. But my biggest fear is over-scheduling them in sports, lessons, service opportunities and any other good thing that may arise. Cohen goes on to explain that this need for play is not an early childhood phenomenon. That childhood is made up of this need to play and it stretches long past toddlerhood.
It’s not just important that children play, but that they have playmates. This could be siblings, friends and even, maybe most importantly, parents. When we use play as an opportunity to connect with our children we can learn something about them and their experiences that we would never be able to draw out of them through conversation alone. When we use play to build confidence in our children they are learning in a most powerful way the strength of their character and determination to master a skill. When we use play to help them heal from emotional distress we skip over the discipline, yelling, correcting that we somehow come to rely on and jump instead straight to the heart of the matter and bring our little ones back to the joy of life they so often display.
For these reasons, and many more, I want every child to have the time and space to play.
What do you want for every child?
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