The Importance of Play

“Oh what do you do in the summer time

When all the world is green?

Do you fish in a stream or lazily dream?

Or swing in a tree up high?

Is that what you do? So do I!”

Those are the words to one of my favorite childhood songs. Summer time...that great big season full of fun, water, play and a break from the rigors of a typical school day. There is much debate on whether kids should be allowed so much free time or whether kids should have homework throughout the summer months. Do children lose too much by playing all summer? Maybe that depends on what and how they are playing. Many types of playing methods are not only good for children, but children are learning at the same time!

In her ground breaking work Mind in the Making, Dr. Ellen Galinsky has described seven ways that children learn while playing.

·         Life Skill #1 Focus and Self Control

·         Life Skill #2 Perspective

·         Life Skill #3 Communication

·         Life Skill #4 Making Connections

·         Life Skill #5 Critical Thinking

·         Life Skill #6 Taking on Challenges

·         Life Skill #7 Self- directed, Engaged Learning

Games like Peek-a-Boo , Hide and Seek, puzzles and Legos teach a child about taking turns, making decisions, anticipating an outcome and a reward for labor. Playing chess requires strategy and concentration. Climbing trees and playing tag invigorates us and keeps us fit. When we tell stories or play pretend, we are learning about different roles, engaging with others and practicing communication. Patty cake and dance teach us about patterns, rhythm and sequences. There is no limit when it comes to imagination and play.  

Plus, playing games with your children is a wonderful way to spend time together. What games did you play as a child? Play can carry on traditions from generation to generation. Are there any games you’d like to teach your child? Taking time to play can refresh us and put life back into perspective. Dr. Patricia Kuhl wrote:

“We see children’s eyes light up and we start to think: When was the last time I felt like that? It encourages us to go out and do things we need to do to have that sense again, that sense of newness and freshness that keeps us alive!”

Understanding that children learn through play is very important. Just as becoming a concert pianist takes practice, children need time to play and practice becoming a grown up. Baby brain cells multiply with every interaction. Singing, caressing, talking, walking, bouncing, reading, and playing…do it all!

This blog was written by Labor of Love contributors Catherine Roth,CHW, Darlene Lundquist, RN and Kym Halliday Clear, RN.