Child Care

Children at Play

I’ve just returned from nine days at a resort on the beach in Mexico (it was wonderful!).  My husband and I had the opportunity to spend hours lounging in the sun, reading, swimming, and people watching.  As a veteran early childhood educator, I focused on the children and there were a lot of them.  They came in all ages, sizes, colors, and languages.  While some of them came with siblings, for the most part they came not knowing any other child at the place.  Despite language and experiential differences, the children immediately formed groups of playmates and I would see them regularly playing near or in the pool together.  The first time I heard the shouts of “Marco,” “Polo,” brought back memories.  The game my son and his friends played in our backyard pool in suburban upstate New York was also the focus of fun in a resort pool in Cancun, Mexico.

Too often, as educators and parents, we forget the importance of play in our children’s lives.  These children were on vacation, so play was primary, but in their everyday lives, especially for school children, play is taking a back seat to academic rigor.  Standardized testing is a huge reality, beginning in kindergarten.  It leaves little time for “play” in the average school day.  We need to remember that play is more than just an opportunity to be noisy and get messy, although those things are important.  Play is the most important way that young children learn.  In an article by Sandra Waite-Stupiansky, PhD, a professor of Early Childhood and Reading at Edinboro University, in Pennsylvania, she states that, “Through play children learn about the social, physical, emotional and cognitive worlds around them.”  When children play with others they learn reciprocity and mutual respect.  They learn resilience and perseverance when obstacles come in the way of their play.  They learn to stretch themselves as they challenge themselves to jump higher, build taller, and concentrate longer.  Through play children have the opportunity to try on adult roles, and learn to deal with tension and stress.  They play monsters and superheroes 


in the classic battle of good versus evil – and of course, good always wins.


Play is learning at its best.  It is authentic, natural, and intrinsically rewarding.  What could be better?  Now, go outside and find somebody to play with!

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