“Creative play is like a spring that bubbles up from deep within a child.” Joan Almon
“Play, while it cannot change the external realities of children’s lives, can be a vehicle for children to explore and enjoy their differences and similarities and to create, even for a brief time, a more just world where everyone is an equal and valued participant.” Patricia G. Ramsey
Essential play items for my younger self
Play encompasses some of my best memories in life. I remember spending hours and hours in my “playroom” pretending to cook and take care of my “baby”. I took what I learned from watching my mom and transformed myself into her through play. I lived for playing as if I were a wife and mother. I honestly thing that is where I began growing the love for cooking that I have so strongly today. My family was always very encouraging in my creative play. They were always more than willing to “eat”my baking experiments and babysit my baby for a few minutes while I “ran errands.” I was always encouraged to play and try new things. Whether it was playing house, or pretending to be a teacher, or even playing the student so my sister could be the teacher I spent so much time in play. I can remember feeling bored during summer vacation and my mom would quickly help me brainstorm things to do. Whether it was pretending leaves were boats and having boat races by the flooded curbs, making mud pies, using glue and flour to make snow filled leaves, or pretending I was a spy and hiding behind the mailbox to record the license plates of every car that drove by – I lived to play. I am thankful my parents encouraged me to explore the world around me and when I thought I had explored it all – they helped me think of new ways to do so.
Now when I look at how children play I see some similiarities and some differences. When observing children play in during free time in my classroom I see similiarities through the girls playing play dough and making cookies, or pretending to be the teacher and the boys playing dinosaurs, or building block cities. Yet, I find some children have a difficult time playing when not given tools to use to develop creative play. Some children spend large amounts of time playing video games and therefore have trouble identifying what is realistic or fantasy. I have observed two or three children who struggled with creative play outside of the realm of video games. I also find that play is not considered as important today. Instead extra curricular activities such as sports or dance take the place of creative play. My hope for young children is that they will be given the opportunity to explore creative play to the fullest. One day they will grow up and so for the time being they should be given the gift of childhood. And within this gift is the beauty of play.
The role of play is a huge one for childhood. Children make meaning through play. They learn about the world around them. Through play children explore life outside of set boundaries. They make the impossible possible and life becomes fair. Friedrich Nietzsche says “In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.” In all adults there is a hidden child thirsting to play. Although in adulthood it gets pushed back and put within boundaries, that thirst is still there. Play just takes on different forms in adulthood. It can be through intimate relationships, through a new hair cut or outfit to role play someone a little different, or through roughhousing with the guys. It still exist just in different forms. Play is a part of everyone.