Posted by: webbhouston | April 25, 2009

Playing Pretend

One of the most important things in my eyes that a child should do is to be a child.

By letting a child be a child they learn to develop the skills that are required for them to become functioning adults, including social and emotional skills such as taking turns, language skills, and the use of cognitive skills. Since I am an awful parent I also believe that roughhousing is fine, not only fine… but necessary. I think that it teaches kids limits and interpersonal interactions. And of course… there is that pesky imagination that is fermented when they play pretend.  I believe that all humans are born with a just about endless capacity to be creative. You know those people that say that they are not creative? I dont believe that they were born that way… I believe that many children are not allowed or encouraged to let their creativity flow and grow.  A child whose creativity is hampered and squashed will grow up to be an adult who believes that they are not creative.

In recent years we have been so focused on getting children in so many rigid and structured activities (soccer, dance, etc.) that a child has very little free time for just playing. Add into this the use of very limited toys that do not offer the opportunity for a child to develop their imagination  and you have children who are not allowed to play.. but are told what to play and how to play. This has been shown to cause children to not be able to self regulate. Not only this but a child not being allowed to just play can even lead to depression and anxiety in the child.  It is sad that play is not valued as a crucial part in a child’s life and recess is being taken away so that kids can learn how to take the tests that things like No Child Left Behind have instituted.

Last week we were at a birthday party for the daughter of Tori, one of my dear friends. At this party there were some beautiful playstands with playsilks and a great variety of toys that allowed the myriad of kids at this party to just play.  For hours they “mixed” in their “kitchens”, they dressed up and defended princesses from dragons, and they danced for each other.

Here is Kate dressed up like a princess with a crooked hat. All of the children that were there were the kids of parents who are into waldorf schooling and the children were an endless pit of ideas as to what to do with the open ended toys that they were provided. Nothing they were given to play with had batteries and they were not needed, as a child’s mind has an endless battery for fun and ideas.

Here the children were allowed to eat real and pretend food. As my children grow older I have learned to really cherish the old fashioned wisdom that said that a child’s job was to play. I hope to never forget this and that more people realize how necessary this is for all children.

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