Play is Everything

I took this video of children playing on their own.
No adults, no guidance or suggestions for play.

Everyone loves happy times of playing, especially when nothing is scripted, and the play, well, evolves.  And grows.  Children are especially drawn to play because that’s how they learn.  It’s the work of childhood.  Supporting children’s play is what I do.

It’s not as easy as you would think.  Teachers and parents are natural helpers; often giving a hand, stepping in when someone cries, giving advice… the list of ‘helping’ is a long one.  It is well intentioned, yet not always what children need.  Note: ‘need’ is far different than ‘want’.

If play is a ‘child’s work’, then children need to work at it- without adults.  They need to figure out problems, negotiate, share, and help.  The hardest thing for teachers and parents is to step back and ‘not help’, because every time they help, a child has stopped learning and growing.  Really.  That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Very hard.

I remember my 5-year-old begging to go on the ski chair lift.  He’d been looking.  I said ‘yes’… and then watched, as he was too little to put the big bar down onto the chair, after the ski attendants lifted him into the chair.  The chair lift took off, and all they could do was yell at him to “sit back.”  He did.  Moments later I realized he wouldn’t know what to do when he got to the end of the chair lift.  All I could do was wait and hope he made it down the hill.  He did.  That was my ‘parent moment’ of realizing play is learning.

Play can often start as one thing and lead to another.  Children are inventive and creative.  The best things happen during play.

It happened like this…

We have a hospital in the classroom’s dramatic play center.  It is very popular.  Most importantly, it sets the stage for play, unencumbered by adults.  Today doctors were hard at work.  There were many patients.

At the same time, we added flowers and potted plants to the classroom, including artificial white roses.

Children loved playing with these white roses.  Who knew?  Two children held the roses and wanted to have a wedding ceremony.  They asked my fellow teacher to marry her.  She knew this meant a ceremony, so she grabbed the doctor’s coat from the hospital to be her wedding veil.

They had a wonderful ceremony.

Play is powerful because it empowers children.  It gives them life tools.  After all, how can we get along as adults and make a mark on this world if we haven’t learned how to play?


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 Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, Play, Teaching young children, young children and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

86 Responses to Play is Everything

  1. GP says:

    I so agree, Jennie. When I was a single parent, I wanted my son to grow independent, so playing was often without super vision. (he didn’t know I was peeking).

  2. beth says:

    I so agree with every word of this, Jennie. Great post

  3. johnrieber says:

    Over-parenting can keep children from learning how to interact on their own – with all the false starts and missteps that are part of learning.

    • Jennie says:

      You are exactly right, John. Those over-parented children can’t make decisions or have social relationships when they become adults. Pretty sad.

  4. frenchc1955 says:

    Hi Jennie, thank you for another wonderful post!

  5. Ritu says:

    This is wonderful 💛

  6. Don Ostertag says:

    Essential part pf their development, for sure.

  7. Delightful video. Loved the little girl (toward the end) who must have decided the ‘game’ was who fell down first!

    Good memories for them, I’m sure.

    • Jennie says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the video, Jacqui. Yes, the little girl at the end…priceless! I do think these are good memories for the children.

  8. “playing” is another word for “socializing”. Something many lack.

  9. K.L. Hale says:

    Jennie, this is moving! Play IS EVERYTHING! You’re such a wise and wonderful educator and human! Many times WE, the adults, STUNT learning when we do everything for kids. Watching them play, problem solve, and create,…oh to keep that joy and self-sufficiency through adulthood. Thank you, Jennie. This is a blessing to read! I thought of you yesterday when I read to 100 3rd graders…I giggled at the questions and marveled at their “mysteries”. Kids are the REAL DEAL! 💕💕💕 just like YOU are the real deal 😘🥰💕

  10. beetleypete says:

    Adults cannot help themselves changing the way kids play if they get involved. Left to their own devices, (as you have shown) the children’s imagination will do the job perfectly.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  11. quiall says:

    It is so sad when adults forget how to play. That complex simplicity is the foundation of our entire lives.

    • Ana Daksina says:

      We agree ~ and it’s practically a lost art, which is very bad for us individually and collectively.

      I’ve seen “impossibly” hard work done as play in a fraction of the time and at a thousandth of the expense which we regularly undertake ~ for the story, ask my search bar for “Flour Power.”

  12. I loved how the children looked at each other and then fell. So true it us so easy to help when it is better to hold back! Thank you Jennie.

  13. An excellent point about kid’s play being their work. Let ’em work. I remember when I was a kid in Detroit. In the summer, I would head out of the house, returning only to eat lunch and dinner. I was due back in again when the streetlights came on.

  14. Kara Aharon says:

    I see this in workshops. Some parents can’t let their children make or do anything that isn’t “perfect”. I believe in giving children the freedom to be creative whenever possible.

  15. petespringerauthor says:

    What a great post, Jennie! Learning to work and play with others is part of growing up. I used to tell parents who were considering home school (a viable and good choice for some) that one of the things the child would miss out on was learning to work things out with other students in the class. When children problem-solve independently, they’re building confidence and figuring out that they’ll be ready the next time they have to negotiate or collaborate.

    • Jennie says:

      I knew you would champion play, Pete. The social/emotional pieces are truly the life skills children need. I always worry that children who are home schooled will miss out.

      Is the wedding this weekend?

      • petespringerauthor says:

        June 3rd. We head out to South Dakota next Wednesday. Thanks for asking. I’m sure I’ll inundate my blog with photos.😊

      • Jennie says:

        I’ll be thinking of you and your family, Pete. Really! Please, inundate your blog with photos!

  16. Dan Antion says:

    Independent play was something I always enjoyed as a child, and something we allowed our daughter to do as often as possible.

  17. Absolutely true. That’s how my children played. It makes them more creative and able to think things through. No toys for the most part, just pure imagination. I’m sorry I missed the wedding. 🙂 Hugs to the bride.

  18. willowdot21 says:

    Another beautiful post Jennie it’s amazing how the power of play teaches our children. What a lovely wedding ceremony absolutely 🌹🌹

  19. Norah says:

    Lovely stories, Jennie. Play is children’s work. It’s how they learn.

  20. Ally Bean says:

    My mother was a teacher and she said this, too. You gotta play, you gotta learn, why not intertwine them?

  21. Darlene says:

    It is hard as a parent t let go and let the children learn and grow but it is essential. (It is even harder as a grandparent.) I am so glad my parents let us play without interference. It was the start of me making up stories in my head!

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, it is hard, and even harder as a grandparent. We were both lucky to play without parent interference. You never told me that was the start of making up stories in your head. How wonderful! BTW, an older sibling of a child in my class stopped by school on Friday to tell me she checked out an Amanda book at the Groton Public Library. There were only two left, all the others had been checked out! Oh, my heart!

  22. Opher says:

    Play is just what learning should be!! Fun and illuminating! Active and inventive!

  23. I completely agree with you Jennie. A wonderful and inspiring post 👌

  24. Elizabeth says:

    Your post has inspired me to go ahead and rant about my sadness when seeing 3 year olds in a soccer class in the neighboring town.

  25. dgkaye says:

    Beautiful memories for children. ❤

  26. Pingback: Play is Everything – menthor of mind

  27. I really love your way of teaching the very smart way, Jennie! Wasn’t it said long time ago, that learning by playing is the fastest way ever? 😉 Best wishes, Michael

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