Yesterday I was so lucky! Since my daughter had a school team meeting, I was in charge of the children – 2, 4, and 7. After mommy left, I took them down into our play area (an area where the kids play when they come over on Sunday afternoons). They selected some toys they were interested in. The two boys, 2 & 7, picked a couple of different kinds of blocks. Our little 4 year old girl had brought along an IPad, and decided she was going to play with that.
Those two boys sat and built with those blocks for about 45 minutes – having been a teacher, I consider that a good attention span. During the block building the 7 year old discovered that one set of Lego blocks glows in the dark. He yelled over to his sister, “Hey, these glow in the dark.” Our little 4 year old put down the technology and followed her brother as they went around to different spots in the house that were dark to see how the blocks gave off light. They even called to the two year old who also took part in the discovery of light.
The kids had wanted to go swimming, so I interrupted their play to tell them we better go swimming before mommy gets back. We spent a good hour and a half in the pool, playing. Even the two year old did not want to get out of the pool when I told them we should get some lunch, and that mommy would be here soon.
The boys left when mom arrived, but our little 4 year old girl stayed with me. She is a strong willed little sweetheart and definitely has her own mind. I had to go to the store, and told her that we were also going to pick out some things that she likes to do for when she comes to my house. Our girl was so sweet and talked the whole way through the store, trying to decide if she wanted to paint a unicorn or did she want to paint a horse that had glitter too. The glitter won out. We also bought some play dough and a cheap baby doll because we want to one day go outside and practice giving the “baby” a bath. She wanted some expensive items, but was fine when I told her that something was too much money. I couldn’t have been more pleased as she talked through all of her choices, and we had no problems.
When we got home, she wanted to play with the play dough. I said we could do one color today – pick the color. She picked purple. So I made supper and did dishes while she played. She rolled and squished the play dough among other things. I had a moment - so I said, I’m going to make a face. I made a snake and put it into a circle for the face and proceeded to add eyes and a nose. I went back to my cooking. That little girl decided to make “herself” but much different than mine and much better. She made a whole person with hair and arms and legs, all the facial features, and with a smile (“See my smile!” she said). We even took a picture and sent it to mommy! She continued on making other people, each time adding more details – fingers and toes… She asked if she could get another color – I gave in. She asked, “What does purple and white make?” She put them together and saw that she made a dark pink. She turned the play dough containers upside down and began making people heads using the play dough. She stuck strands of “hair” all around the back and facial features on the front. In total our “wild” one played close to two hours with that play dough, just creating.
Why do I write all of this to you? I write this to show you the importance of play and creativity in the life of a child. In this age of “school” we think kids can only learn if we give them certain reading programs and do math in the same way. We don’t allow “play” or recess where all kinds of learning takes place. We think kids don’t have any attention spans, and teachers have to engage them.
When will we realize that we need a balance? When will we quit going to extremes? Can we use resources such as textbooks and workbooks? YES, we can (I am not one of those that says you can never use the textbook or a workbook) – and we can also use “play.” We can create a balance that meets the needs of students. Teachers can also be different in their approaches; we don’t all have to be the same.
I am so lucky to be able to have grandchildren who teach me. I am blessed!