Last week, I was hit by a stark reminder of why play for children is so important. We had had a tough two weeks. Busy, lots of the usual routine, but with some added extra things. Mum and Dad working hard on work projects, a new teacher for an activity to get used to. We are busy as a family, and that busy-ness means something gets neglected.
Non structured, get outside, get physical or creative, use your imagination, do things because you want to play.
I don’t think play features as much in primary schools as it used to. The focus on SATS and results and tests and achieving targets and trying to parent children for us means that good old fashioned play has been forgotten *I am happy to be corrected on this, if you happen to be in a school that does make play a focus for the early years, please hear that I come from our experience where the school we left to pursue homeschool instead seemed to have forgotten about play unless it was carefully structured. Playtime was also removed as a sanction. Something I think is very wrong and bad for children. But I know not all schools are like this, however, I do see enough on social media and talking to parents to realize it isn’t just us*
Sleep has been a bit lacking here. We pinned the reasons down to this to two things. He’s getting cold at night. We corrected that. He’s also not getting enough outside playtime. Partly due to busy routines and activities that are mostly indoors but also partly due to the lovely winter weather which makes it harder to get outside. Pouring rain, arctic cold, and damp don’t make being outside that fun.
Play is really important. I love this quote on why.
Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. Playing allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers. As they master their world, play helps children develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges Undirected play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills. When play is allowed to be child-driven, children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover their own areas of interest, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue. (Source here. You can find a lot of information about why playtime is important, pretty much anyone who works with children will agree)
I realised we need to slot more playtime in. Free time, for him to explore and relax both physically and emotionally. I have been a bit slack. He does get time at home when he does his own thing, but getting outside to physically just be has been lacking.
So we need to do better. I need to make sure it happens. He needs it. It is good for him. It’s not a nice added extra, it’s a must. Last week we abandoned all our responsibilities and took ourselves off for a few hours to just be, to enjoy some time out from school work and work and all the things that “needed” our attention but didn’t really. He thoroughly enjoyed it and I realized he needs it often and regularly. It’s just as important as learning how to use grammar correctly or being able to tell me what a right angle is or read a piece of comprehension or do a geography test.
So no matter what I need to slot times in for play. Free play, exercise play, keeping himself amused play, me playing with him, or him having time with others. If we don’t let children play, we are doing them a major disservice.
What are your thoughts on play? How do you make sure your kids get time to just be…?