My Words To a Parent

To all parents out there, worried about their young child, and trying to keep school and learning going at home – here are my words to a parent who was concerned that her child often wanted to play:

“When you say that Tommy wants to build with blocks and play doctor, and play “emergency” – that is great news!  Children’s play is their work.  It is how they make sense of their world and how they express themselves and work things out.  Play is really, really important.  Mister Rogers knew that early on.”

“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.”
-Mister Rogers-


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
This entry was posted in behavior, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, Play, preschool, Quotes, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

90 Responses to My Words To a Parent

  1. Ritu says:

    Oh, definitely, Jennie! For this age, play is indeed Work!!

  2. I think we have to try hard to vanish into the world of imagination if we, as adults, are to share play with children. Dressing up helps but they often need another child to help them enjoy themselves and that’s when we have to try to remember what it was like to be their age and switch from being teacher to companion if there is no other child in the family.
    I suppose this is when digital games are useful but board and card games can be fun, too.

    • Jennie says:

      Well said, Julie. I suppose it is easier and more natural for teachers to be childlike and play. I must keep helping parents to understand that when they play, or when they encourage their child to play, they are helping their child. The world of imagination is where it begins. Yes, board games and card games!

  3. quiall says:

    When learning become play it’s not work.

  4. beth says:

    i could not agree more.

  5. robynbird says:

    Amen x infinity! ❤️

  6. Darlene says:

    Perfect advice. Play is important at all ages. We´ve been playing with our dog a lot lately. xo

  7. beetleypete says:

    Excellent advice as always, Jennie.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  8. “Play is their work.” Exactly, Jennie. Brilliantly said. Hugs on the wing.

  9. Opher says:

    And for adults!

  10. Thank you for your positive words, Jennie.

    • Jennie says:

      You are welcome, Robbie. On a side note, I thought about you all day yesterday. I knew I was set to read aloud the chapter in “Little House on the Prairie” that you love. I promised you ages ago that when I read this book to children, I would read aloud a chapter for you. And I did. You will love it. Yes, I cried. It will be my opening to Part 3 this weekend.

  11. Well said. I love this reminder.

  12. Dan Antion says:

    Excellent reminder, Jennie. And, I think adults should play more as well.

  13. I love this!! We should all play more. 😀

  14. lunasmithart says:

    Playtime is very important:)

  15. petespringerauthor says:

    The social aspects of playing together and learning to share, take turns, and respect boundaries are some of the most important things to learn.

    • Jennie says:

      Absolutely, Pete! It’s the social skills that are really life skills (ooo, I need to write about that!) and need to be learned early on. Parents worry about the academics, and my mission is to teach them ‘why’. Gee, that sounds overly dramatic, Pete. Apologies, but you know exactly what I mean.

  16. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, thank you! This post is crucially important!

  17. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Here is an excellent post on the importance of play for children from the extraordinary teacher, Jennie!

  18. Play is essential. It’s mind-expanding and creative and full of negotiation and taking turns and all sorts of stuff!

  19. If not for ‘play’ and wonderment, why would anyone want to access one’s inner child?
    Can’t wait for your Chapter 3…just sayin’…

  20. My mother was an Early Childhood Education major in the 1950s, and I remember her telling me when I was growing up and particularly after my daughter was born that developmentally, children learn through play. When did that change?

    • Jennie says:

      I didn’t know your mother majored in Early Childhood Education. I can picture her, knowing far more when your daughter was born that she did when you were born, telling you what is important. I did this with my children, feeling a bit desperate as if I was passing on an important message. Well, I was.

      When did this change? Good question! I think it started to change in the early 80’s when computers became something in the hands of people, and at the same time our nation was sorely lagging behind other countries in math and science in schools. Over the decades the academic push has trickled down and finally landed at preschool.

      Children haven’t changed. They will always learn best through play. The expectations of children have changed, and that puts pressure on children. No wonder schools have so many children with special needs. They haven’t had a chance to learn and grow.

      The most interesting article I read was about surgeons. The finding was that their skills weren’t as good because as children they had never played in the woods, built with sticks, made forts… used their hands to create and play. They were always on a computer.

      Your mother was right. I must say that there is a bit of a resurgence in play based learning. Hooray!

      • Thank you for your thoughtful response to my question, Jennie. I’ve also been why there are so many children with special needs now. Isn’t that interesting about surgeons’ skills being negatively impacted by the computer. I’m glad to hear that there are been a resurgence in play-based learning.

      • Jennie says:

        It is all very interesting, Liz. The play based learning is wonderful, yet I fear it will not be fully embraced in many parts of the country. Ideally, Finland has it nailed in education. They are the role model for the world when it comes to the perfect balance and really understanding children. Every hour has movement. Play is a big part of the day. Formal reading is not introduced until age 6. And, they are #1 in the world in reading. America is #26. We are so stuck on rote learning and memorization. Apologies for the ramble, Liz. Thank you for your reply. 🙂

      • I wonder if this could be more fallout from the No Child Left Behind Act that prompted so much teaching to the test. It wreaked havoc in my world, with younger adult college students now struggling to remove their thinking from the 5-paragraph essay box that says absolutely nothing. Trying to engage them in critical thinking is very difficult. There is a lot of work that has to be done to convince them that they have something important to say in written communication and other people want to hear it. Stepping down off my soapbox.

      • Jennie says:

        Please, stay on your soapbox! You hit a nerve referring No Child Left Behind. Yes, I believe that is the link. Convincing adults that critical thinking begins with play is a hard concept for many. The test is such a poor way to learn, or teach. I could go on! But you already know that!

  21. kevin cooper says:

    Absolutely… Well said!

  22. Amazing advice, Jennie. I’m so glad you shared that children may play out the events going on around them, especially the scary ones, as a way to make sense of them… on their own terms. You’re so wonderful. Be well, my friend. ❤

  23. Patriel says:

    How very true and necessary for the early child to organize their learning by using the parts they have take in and trying to figure out how to use them .

  24. dgkaye says:

    Beautifully stated Jennie. This was the money line: “Children’s play is their work. It is how they make sense of their world and how they express themselves and work things out. Play is really, really important. Mister Rogers knew that early on.” ❤

  25. Well done! Sharing… ❤

  26. Athira says:

    Its true..its really important in childhood days..well written!

  27. A wonderful reminder, and a cool statement too, Jennie! Yes, playing is another way to work and learn. Thank you, and best wishes, Michael

  28. Loved this!!! I am a grownup and I still love to play -.I may look like an adult, but I will always be a child at heart!

  29. dweezer19 says:

    So true, Jennie. And when you listen to your child at play you gain insights into what they are picking up from their surroundings, what they dream about and hope for. Thanks!

  30. Ciscas says:

    For sure, play for children is not a waste of time.. thanks for the post.

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