PREVIOUS: Children & Play – Intro (Part 1)
ACoA INVENTORY – WRITE what comes up for you as you carefully read thru each Benefit type. As an adult: In spite of your childhood trauma, and looking at your life-long patterns, identify which skills have always come easily / naturally, where have you excelled, which ones have you been working at the most, & what needs improving.
BENEFITS of Play in Childhood
Positive Playful experiences help children develop in important areas of feeling and connecting, sensing and moving, listening and talking, and thinking and remembering:
a. COGNITIVE skills
TO: compare, combine, discriminate, have options, have perspective, imitate, make choices, make sets, plan, pretend, problem solve, reason, sort, use symbols, visualize…
> Critical thinking – play encourages learning to problem-solve, along with concepts like cause-&-effect, quantities & spatial relationships
>Creativity and Imagination – pretending to be doctors, teachers, parents, firefighters… kids learn that life is full of possibilities and opportunities
b. LANGUAGE skills
TO: communicate thoughts and feelings, use words, develop vocabulary, learn rules of language, imagery, jokes, puns, rhymes, songs…
>Language – develops together with play as the brain grows & children use words while playing with toys and engaging in joint activities, leading to expansion of thinking & understanding. (chart)
• Both language and make-believe play involve the ability to represent the world mentally to oneself, so their developmental are parallel. Children play with:
— Sounds and noises // Linguistic systems (meanings or grammatical constructions) // Rhymes and words // Conventions of speech. (MORE….)
c. MOTOR Skills
TO: catch, climb, handle small objects, hop, ride tricycles, run, skate, skip, tumble, throw…
> Fine-motor – by handling and manipulate objects: toys, books, art supplies, small animals
> Gross-motor – by being able to reach, crawl, walk, run, climb, jump, throw, catch, and balance when playing
d. SOCIO-EMOTIONAL Skills
TO: be a follower, be a leader, boundaries, control impulses & aggression, cooperate, compromise, empathize, follow rules, interpret the intention of others, make friends, negotiate, role play, solve problems, take turns AND gain a strong sense of self
> Social – Play helps build relationships. which they master by learning to follow directions, to cooperate, to take turns, to share and abide by rules. It’s one of the ways children learn about and practice living in their world and their culture.
> Emotional – spending time with safe adults, siblings & and other children helps them learning about feelings – how to identify & manage them, as well as recognize & appreciate the feelings of others. It also helps children to manage their feelings and to cope with upsetting things that happen in their lives.
Social & Mental Disorders Increase AS Play Decreases
• Unfortunately this vital part of growing up (play time) is being eroded – not only by the trauma of daily life in severely dysfunctional homes, but by a widespread systematic shift in our schools to ‘accomplishment’ – Doing rather than Being. A study by the Alliance for Childhood “Crisis in the Kindergarten” tells us that free play or ‘choice time’ in most of them has dwindled to the vanishing point (30 min or less a day), replaced by lengthy lessons and standardized testing (about 2-3 hrs, daily).
• At a WonderPlay conference in 2008 Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a Temple U. psychologist told her audience that lack of play in early childhood education “could be the next global warming,” because without enough time to develop innovation & creative thinking via PLAY, America’s children will be at a disadvantage in the global economy. (MORE…)
• Peter Gray’s book, Free to Learn (2013), tells us that for more than 50 years now, Americans (& other ‘advanced’ countries) have gradually reduced children’s freedom to play – which is correlated with a rise in childhood emotional problems. Children are required to spend more time at schoolwork, and then channeled into adult-directed after-school activities & lessons, with little or no time to explore on their own.
>> The decline in this freedom is showing up as an overall decline in empathy & a rise in narcissism, documented since the late 1970s by standardized questionnaires given to samples of typical college students. (MORE….)
• Self-conscious, competitive parents are behind the emphasis on formal learning in preschool, more homework in elementary school & more pressure on young children to quickly gain academic skills. Consequences are potentially dire, says psychologist Michael Thompson. He believes that diminished time to play freely with other children is producing a generation of socially inept young people, & is one reason for high rates of youth obesity, anxiety, ADD & depression.
NEXT: Childhood Play – FORMS (Part 1)