Often we hear the term “play” and how important play is for our kids’ health and well-being.                    But what exactly is “play”?  What does it mean?
Often we hear the term “play” and how important play is for our kids’ health and well-being. But what exactly is “play”? What does it mean?

2014 MayJune jami2creditJamiwest

If as parents, advocates for children, and teachers we are going to take seriously the research that tells us children need to play and that is how they learn most effectively, then we must use play as the pedagogical principle by which we provide learning environments.  If we are working together in raising our children, we must understand what we mean when we use the term “play”

According to Lennie Barblett from the Early Years Learning Framework:

2014 MayJune jami1creditSonaiSmithPlay is voluntary.    That does not mean one cannot invite, suggest or ask a child to play.  It means they are not mandated or forced to sit and “learn” something.

Play is active.   Play requires physical, mental or verbal engagement with people, objects and ideas.  It might sometimes look like a child is passive (not active) when playing, but the child is likely manipulating ideas and constructing understandings.

Play is symbolic.   It is that “What if?” opportunity.  Play has great meaning to the player and sometimes holds no meaning to the observer.  It’s where children develop an understanding of the social and physical conditions that define their world and the language and symbols that are used to describe it.

2014 MayJune jami3creditTaylorCobbPlay is process-oriented.   Children play for the sake of the activity rather than the end product.  In a play-based environment, we can start with an end goal in mind, but we know anything is open to suggestion and possibility.

Play is pleasurable.   It’s engaging. It’s enjoyable and fun.  And it’s great to watch.  It should have challenges, fears and frustrations but the quality of enjoyment stands out for players.  Watching children at play is what keeps me most motivated to continue in my career.

Most importantly, play is a fundamental right of all children in the world and we should, especially in today’s current academic push in our school systems, hold this as most important when making decisions about the health and well-being of our children.

“Play based learning and the Early Years Learning Framework with Lennie Barblett.”  Early Years Learning Framework Professional Learning Program.  Commonwealth of Australia 2010.   Web March 28, 2014.  Transcript.

Photos courtesy of Taylor Cobb, Jami West and Sonia Smith

Jami West is the Director of You’re Invited – (a fully licensed daycare located on the Madison Street campus) and of commonGood’s children’s program.

Posted by Debbie Wright