Thursday, March 8, 2012

Kid-directed play

I read an article today about how the amount of children’s free play is on the decline and how some experts believe there’s a correlation between that and anxiety/depression. Here is the article. While I don’t really know if I fully agree about the anxiety/depression part, I definitely think there’s some merit and importance to kid-directed play.

This article brought up some interesting points. I’ll name a few that stuck out to me the most.

1) It is through play that children first learn how to make decisions, solve problems, exert self control, and follow rules.
I have never thought about this before, but it is so true. At this point in Jude and Ezra’s development, they usually make the wrong choices in solving problems and exerting self control, but that is how we learn, by making mistakes. I find that I have to consistently and constantly guide their play and interactions with each other. I’m ok with this for now, hopefully I am teaching them how to do this on their own for the future.

2) Children learn to handle their emotions, including anger and fear, during play.
I feel this is so important. Children need to learn how to have self control, not only physically, but emotionally as well. I think there are other situations where this can be learned, but play is definitely a big one.

3) Play helps children make friends and learn to get along with each other as equals.
“Social play is a natural means of making friends and learning to treat one another fairly. Since play is voluntary and playmates may abandon the game at any time if they feel uncomfortable, children learn to be aware of their playmates' needs and attempt to meet them in order to maintain the play.”
Couldn't have said it better myself. I love this thought!

And here are a few thoughts of my own:
1) Children learn how to value others in play. This kind of piggy backs onto the third point above from the article, but when kids attempt to meet others’ needs in play, they essentially are being sensitive to those needs and realizing that other people, their needs, and their feelings matter. (and are hopefully learning to put others above themselves)
2) Children learning how to play with other children of different ages is a good thing to learn. We have friends with children of the same age of our kids and different ages, and I love that our kids learn how to play with older and younger children. This is another reason why we want to homeschool (and probably will).

I’m sure there are a billion other reasons why kid-directed play is beneficial. I’m just glad my kids have a built-in play buddy/teacher of how to treat others, and friends whom we play with on a regular basis. A little side note, as I type this, one of my kids is crying because they aren’t playing well together. Go figure.
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