Play is for Keeps
Susan Oliver, executive director of Playing for Keeps.
Let your mind drift back to those hot and hazy summer days of your childhood, or to the after-school hours when your homework was done, or those cozy winter weekends with your family. Perhaps you played “kick the can” with friends as you roamed the neighborhood, or maybe you hosted imaginary tea parties with dolls and stuffed animals as your guests. Did you ever go on a mountain climbing expedition over a terrain of old tables and chairs in the basement or play dress-up for hours on end? If some of your best memories of childhood are about play, you're not alone. Play has a unique role in everyone's development because it is the way that children explore the world, build skills, exercise their imaginations, and learn through experience. It also brings joy and magic to our world, whatever age we may be.
What Kids Learn through Play Stays With Them Forever
Play, like food, exercise, love, and hope, is an essential building block of healthy development, a critical part of the foundation children need to lead productive lives as adults. That's why one of the most important things you can do for your children is to make sure they have the time and opportunity to play.
If play is so important to healthy development, why are our kids doing less and less of it?
Does it matter? Shouldn't our play patterns change in response to cultural shifts?
While our culture has changed, the importance of play in healthy development has not. For example:
Parents can promote constructive play... every day.
Parents and caregivers are children's first playmates, and they have a key role in creating fun, constructive play experiences for their children. The more parents and caregivers understand and embrace the link between play and healthy development, the more they will be equipped to make informed decisions about play. Experts agree that “constructive” play shares these characteristics:
Play is one of the easiest and most natural gifts you can give your child.
Why not start making your child's life more playful? Remember that play is a child's natural tool for building self-esteem, creativity, and the skills he or she will need to lead a satisfying adult life. Constructive play is child affirming and family affirming. Give a little of your time and imagination, and you'll be doing the most important thing a parent can do for a child. And, you'll have great fun doing it!