January 05, 2012 Mary Anne Peabody

Playgrounds or grounded in play

Playgrounds….a play on words…leveling the playing field…play into someone’s hands….play ball….playing around…play fair….play fighting….play by the rules…plays well with others…..etc.

The word play is part of our culture…our expression…our language. As humans we play as a natural necessity and for children it is their preferred form of communication. In fact, play is essential for both physical and mental health.

From lullabies, to peek-a-boo, to playground adventures… to family board games… to sports…we communicate and connect through play. Observing children at play on a playground, or anywhere where play is allowed, one bears witness to a variety of relationship skills and stories. Playgrounds are ripe with opportunities for social skills, imagination, creativity, conflict resolution, and learning. It is through play that children’s thoughts, emotions, needs and wishes are expressed.

Yet…we have to honor and show interest in play. We have to take time for play that is imaginative and know that play helps connections.  We have to ensure it becomes part of the experiences we value for our children and for ourselves.

It’s easy to be too tired to play….it’s easy to be too busy. Many years ago, as a pregnant working mom (a play therapist in an elementary schools no less) I was exhausted one afternoon after picking my daughter up from day care.

“Mom can we play?”

Usually those magical words would be a wonderful invitation, but not that afternoon. That afternoon my response was “Oh Katie, not right now…I’m so tired. Why don’t you find something else to do besides play?” 

She titled her head, and a confused expression came over her face. She eloquently responded with the wisdom delightfully capable of a four year old…“But Mom, playing is what I do!”

There you go….Child development lesson 101.  Parent education lesson 101. If we want to connect and communicate with children, we must be grounded in their language of play!

playful learning, parent perspective, free play, guest blog, experts