“Mommy, we’re not making a mess. We’re having an experience!”
This was my daughter’s response when I saw my mud covered driveway and more to the point – my mud covered children. My initial reaction was one of frustration thinking of the clean up that this was going to require. But, then, the words of my 7 year old resounded in my head. “We’re having an experience!” She was right. They were doing exactly what they should have been doing. They were playing.
As a counselor who works with children, I am a bit ashamed that I had to be reminded of this by my child. Her words were spot on. Our children need to play. We often think of play as merely what children do to fill their time, but there is so much more involved in a child’s play.
Emotional Benefits. Play is fun! Children get to experience enjoyment and love of life. It gives our children an outlet for expression of feelings they may not always have words for. It is relaxing and gives an opportunity to release some of that energy that seems ever present in kids.
Educational Benefits. Play is the language that children speak fluently. They are learning and practicing how to interact with the world around them in their play activities. They are finding ways to put skills and concepts into a meaning ful context . Play offers opportunities for children to explore their world and discover new and exciting things. It can also offer an enjoyable opportunity for learning information that otherwise could be mundane and boring – increasing a greater likelihood that there will be a lifelong love of learning.
Developmental Benefits. Play teaches our children important rules about how to behave in social situations. They are learning about cooperation, patience, conflict resolution and sharing. Their brains are developing through play. Their skills of creativity and imagination, problem solving and how to think more abstractly are all being nurtured through their times in play. They are developing physically in their fine and gross moor skills. Language skills are sharpened through communication and word recognition.
It’s amazing all that can be accomplished in our children’s lives in something that seems so simple as play. So, the next time you have the opportunity to observe your child at play, really watch them. See if you can pinpoint things the ways they are learning and growing through their play activity. Truly see them not only making a mess, but living out a wonderful experience!
Robyn Thurman, MA, LPC