Post by Eboni Walker, 25 March 2022
Meet Bashira. This feisty five-year old is the little sister of one of my son’s soccer teammates. And while her big brother scores goals on the field with The 18th Ward Sports Club, she often hangs out along the sidelines making her own fun. Last weekend, she went around to the soccer moms, asking “May I please take your order? What would you like for lunch?” After a few minutes, Bashira showed up with a masterfully created grass salad and donuts. The mom who ordered exclaimed “That’s perfect!” and, after taking a pretend bite responded “How delicious!”
We all chuckled with delight, and waited our turn to order next. Indeed, Bashira reminded me of my own childhood, when I could spend hours in my own imaginary worlds. Whether I played school by lining up stuffed animals and dolls, or used the food items in the pantry to play grocery store- the power of play served an important purpose in my childhood, just as it does for all children.
As the beloved Mr. Rogers quotes, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief
from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Researchers in the early education field echo the critical need and outcomes of child’s play, the function of which is to build persistence towards new understanding, navigating social skills, and overall healthy development.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports, “Play is fundamentally important
for learning 21st century skills, such as problem solving, collaboration, and creativity,
which require the executive functioning skills that are critical for adult success.”
Whether children are engaged with playing with an object, playing make-believe, having rough and tumble play or exploring with their senses (i.e. mud, sand and water), the activity of play supports the child’s overall development and reduces stress.
Play matters, especially in the context of the world our children are living in today. If you’re not sure where to begin as a parent or caregiver, check out the 10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Play, and prioritize making time to play with children in your home, neighborhood or community.