The Importance of Play

by Deb on August 13, 2009

I was trying to get baby girl to let me take photos for the balloons and static piece and it was a bit frustrating – she just wanted to play! But of course that’s what you’d expect.


 Then I showed the big one a new website last night and she did all sorts of weird and wonderful things I hadn’t thought of. And it dawned on me that I’d better write a bit of a clarification about some of these activities.


 It may sound like I get out the balloons or the vacuum and off we go with a beautifully thought out science lesson.


 We don’t.


 All of these activities are designed to fill in gaps around what your child is already doing. If they are perfectly happy playing, let them! Be aware of the possibilities so you can throw in a gentle nudge if they seem to be slowing down. Or if they’ve given up playing with the torch because it’s boring, you have something else to suggest. Or if they’ve never cooked, or never been out in the rain, now you have some new ideas. But first allow your kids to use their own innate inventiveness, because they will surprise you.


 When I was teaching teenagers and got out the magnets or mirrors or even mathomats, I always allowed at least one lesson to play. Of course it was called discovery learning, or free exploration, or something fancy like that, but really it’s about letting them loose and seeing just how creative they are all on their own. And these were teenagers who were too cool for school, just think what enthusiastic little kids can come up with!


 Imagination is like anything else – it gets better with practice. And imagination is one of the most important things we can give to our children. Whether it is a science hypothesis, an abstract sculpture, or a new way to earn a living, one of the fundamental skills both for individuals and society is creative thinking. Giving your child some resources and then stepping back can be hard, but it is well worth it.

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