Monday, August 31, 2009
Time to Take Play Seriously: A Little Perspective
I note the calendar (it says 'September') and watch the sun set (earlier each day), yet I refuse to acknowledge what we know to be true: summer's end is fast approaching. For me, summer represents the best of childhood: long days without schedules, mostly playing outside. So, while school may be back in session, let's hope administrators understand what we know: outdoor play time is critical for healthy childhood development.
Why? For the vast majority of our history, formal education didn't exist. We were hunters and gatherers and childhood was about acquiring the skills and instincts we'd need to be successful adults. Fail in our development tasks and we'd be incapable of feeding ourselves and extending our lineage.
So, here we are 10,000 years into our time as farmers and 200 years as industrialists. Our ability to track game and identify foodstuffs, roots and fungi have all but vanished. Times have changed, as have the instincts needed to survive, but the best way for children to learn remains the same: play.
Children are wired to acquire new skills and knowledge and they do it best without fear and consequence. Said another way, play for it's own sake, self-chosen and self-directed, comes with the benefit of learning as a by-product.
Consider learning a foreign language, how to dance or even how to hit a ball. Without concerns about achievement our minds and bodies instinctively pick up the basics. With repetition, our skills improve. As adults, with structure and pressure, our bodies and minds freeze up. We're inhibited. Adults are able to deal with stress better than children, but children are wired to learn. Compare the way a child picks up new technology versus an adult. Too often, as adults, in our desire to raise Einsteins, we make children act like adults and hamper their development. Remember, Einstein never used flash cards.
So, how do we allow kids enough time to be kids if they're sitting in a classroom most of the day? Be cognizant of their needs and, no matter how they spend their time at school, there are still enough waking hours for playtime. For more, head to the http://www.childrenandnature.org website.
See you outside,