Playing: Allowing children to grow and learn

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“Play is the work of the child.” – Maria Montessori


The school holidays are just around the corner for most of us. The kids can’t wait to get away from the routine of school, but many parents dread filling the days and keeping their kids busy. What is the best approach with regards to activities, structured and unstructured play time?

We’ve al heard about the Tiger Mommies (based on the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) who manage every minute of their children’s lives. During term time this is sometimes inevitable, as children are involved in after-school team sports and a variety of cultural activities. But holidays are a different story. The days are open to be filled as you and your children choose.
Most authorities recommend a combination of free and managed activities, with emphasis placed on the importance of free play in allowing children to grow and learn. Free play allows children to explore issues by themselves and in so doing, learn through experience.

Peter Gray in his article about The Play Deficit argues that free play is an integral part of human development, and that it allows children to:

  • Try out scenarios and outcomes without harmful consequence. Kids playing cops and robbers are experimenting with authority and tactical planning.
  • Learn through imitation. Remember dress-up and playing house? You were trying out adult roles to see if they fit.
  • Reinforce lessons through repetition. Kids repeat things they are interested in, until the lessons is absorbed.
  • Just have fun. Playing with no result in mind is vital to a child’s well-being and allows integration of skills.

Why don’t we allow our children some extra free time this holiday? Boredom is often the breeding ground for great creativity and your children could learn some valuable lessons if given the freedom to do so.


Image courtesy of Public Domain Image.