As an educator I believe strongly in the notion that learning should be engaging (and dare I say fun) for children of all ages. Creating an environment where knowledge is built through life experiences, exploration, inquiry, and play are at the crux of the adventures in our house. There is an amazing intersection in early learning with play and at a time when children are beginning school experiences at younger ages the research on play speaks loudly to it's importance in young children's lives.
Parents today are inundated with information about brain development, learning practices, and theories about early learning that may or may not be accurate. My response to all of this is to establish as much time as possible when play is just about play. The technical term for this is unstructured play and it is defined as play that has no specific learning objective. There is no leadership or direction by an adult and there is no particular strategy behind unstructured play. Instead, the play is child-led and leads to improvised scenarios.
As my boys get older and school I find myself establishing more ways to preserve their unstructured play. After school is a precious time of day where the boys reconnect over play with their toys and banter that spurs from imaginative thought. It is a time for free choice and open ended child-led events. Surprisingly (or maybe not), there is an incredible sort of calm that permeates the house during this time. The boys are content, enjoying one another's company, and finding satisfaction in being engaged with where their thoughts take them. In these moments I find the boys connecting with one another and building a sibling relationship that I hope will stay with them far into adulthood.
Supporting unstructured play is surprisingly easy, which is probably why in the hectic life of raising two young children I enjoy this time so much. What are the key ingredients? By simply providing a large enough space, age appropriate toys, and time (lots of time!) you have all the ingredients. Some of our favorite resources include:
All play is incredibly valuable for children and whether you carve out time for adult-led play scenarios that open important conversations, provide materials for creative exploration with crafts/art, or pull together sensory bins/games for early learning opportunities, the most important part is that our children play. My husband and I often joke about the fact that our boys really know how to "play hard" and this is without a doubt one skill set I am proud to have instilled in my children at such a young age.
*This post is part of a month-long series on the topic of play sponsored by Encourage Play.*
ABOUT CHRISSY K
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families and design ideas based on our adventures building a home from the ground up.
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