It's hard to look at the newspaper these days; the world can seem like a terribly unstable place. But, somehow we keep finding creative new ways to solve the problems that we create for ourselves. Playing and creating help me see the world through fresh eyes, and it's a cherished personal retreat when the world seems like it's tearing at the seams.
I feel great about playing, because I believe it's fundamental to preparing our kids for the future. Over the years, I've learned a bit about child development and play, and I believe there is simply nothing better we do for our children than play with them. Here are a few things I think you can take to the bank:
1. The benefits of a mildly chaotic house.
Our house is always scattered with ROK Blocks, dolls, toy cars, drawing materials, books, and blankets to make forts and castles. Allowing our kids to be spontaneous and a little messy is healthy for development in a world filled with TV and computer screens, and the structure of school and organized activities. The Kaiser Family Foundation found last year that children spend an average of 7 hours in front a screen every day! This should make any parent feel great when they guide their children into the chaos of old fashioned play.
2. Social and intellectual skills are derived from playing.
Child development experts tell us that children actually construct their knowledge through play. That’s why creative play (especially construction!) improves spatial skills, early cognitive development, creative problem solving skills, and teachs children to be social. Of course, I am partial to construction toys, but putting on a play, building a fort, making a gingerbread house, or just playing with play dough are great too. There is a huge value in all types of educational play.
3. Playing with our kids is best of all.
We’ve all fallen victim to the temptation to turn on a cartoon or a movie, because our kids become complacent zombies in front of a TV and we get to go back to our adult worlds. But, according to Jim Hunn the VP for mass action at KaBOOM , “Parents have to reassert themselves in this process and teach kids how to play. It’s critical that parents take some ownership and get out and play with their children.” It actually goes even further that that. Children learn best in their ‘zone of proximal development’, that place where an activity is just beyond the child’s abilities. You supercharge their learning when you offer that little bit of adult support needed to show how sheets and the couch can become a fort, how they can participate with you to make a meal, or helping then snap in that tough piece to complete a more advanced ROK Blocks model.
So, when the news of the day is getting me down. . . I make a mess! I like to see what happens when we combine Hot Wheels with ROK Blocks, or pull out all of the blankets and rearrange the living room into a castle. Maybe its not just okay to enjoy to playing with our kids, but could be one of the best things we can do for them? I would love to hear your thoughts. . .