Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Glory of Play

Often I've said that boredom is a precursor to creativity. I truly believe this to be be true. I'm not one to offer suggestions to my own children on how they should entertain themselves. Usually I simply say things like "only boring people get bored" or "if you can't possibly think of anything to do, I'll be happy to give you something." That last suggestion has never been taken up by any of my children. They fear that it means chores. Yesterday I was listening to a show on NPR and the guy was talking about another precursor to creativity. Can you guess what it was? Play! Well he didn't mention play exactly...but I'm going to take some creative liberty here and say that play is also a precursor to creativity. What he said was that when you hit a wall in your creative endeavors you should step away from it, not think about it, let the answer just come to you without seeking it.

What better way to do this than through play? Often parents will ask me what I offer for our after school program. I understand that when paying for a service you want to get something in return, so I rarely pipe up and say, "Oh, I let them play!" Seriously? Why would you pay to just have your child play? They could do that at home for free! So for the sake of everyone involved I say we have all types of educational activities offered in our after school program. We offer science and art, language and math activities. We offer music and dance and lots of drama. I do offer all these things. For the parents it's a planned activity, for the kids, it's play in it's most natural form.

Especially in the after school program, play is a great way for kids to decompress. It's a great way for them to be themselves, to pursue their interests, to work at their own pace, to solve their own problems, to disappear into a favorite book, to work out their frustrations, to learn about group dynamics. Play offers children who have limited time for recess during school to move and jump and run.

All these things are important not just their physical well being but for their mental well being. How refreshed a child will feel approaching math now that he's jumped around and has his blood pumping. How much easier it will be to concentrate now that they've worked out some of their frustration with a hammer building a bird house. How much more creative they will be after sewing props for an upcoming play.

Play should never be an after thought at home and especially in school. Play should always be at the forefront of our plans for children and for ourselves. How drab would our world be without new ideas, new creations, new innovations. These are only possible when hard word is infused with good bouts of play. For the sake of the future, let the children play.