Friday, August 22, 2014

The Importance of Play

Ocean temperatures are typically at their highest in late August and spending time "down the shore" is a favorite way of many Atlantic State-rs to enjoy the end of summer. For kids and teachers this time is especially important as we will soon be off the sand and back in the classroom. On my final beach day of the season I couldn't help but notice this family of four (mom, dad, daughter, son) next to me as I reclined in my chair reading national bestseller Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul written by Stuart Brown, M.D. with Christopher Vaughan, founder of the National Institute for Play. For most of the day, the entire family was either jumping waves, collecting seashells, or building sand creations. Neither kids nor parents spent much time sitting on their blanket. Admittedly, I probably only read 5-10 pages of my book because I too felt the need to play and frolic on this perfect summer day. I have only just begun the book (and I'm a terribly slow reader) but I've started to make a list of favorite quotes:

 Play is "a force that has been built into us through millions of years of evolution, a force that allows us to discover our most essential selves and enlarge our world." 

Through play "we are able to try out things without threatening our physical or emotional well-being" and we "can learn lessons and skills without being directly at risk." 

"Animals that play a lot quickly learn how to navigate their world and adapt to it."

 By 5:00 PM most everyone gathers their wet towels, straps their beach chairs to their backs, and slowly trudges through the sand back to their cars. On timely cue, the family of four initiated these motions when the girl suddenly broke away from the packing, strapping, and gathering and screamed "One more!" in mid-air and hurled her tiny body into the ocean. The three remaining family members briefly looked up before they continued their work of packing up. The little girl came back and did the same thing again! Running, screaming, covered in sand, she leaped into the waves. I laughed with the mom and told her how I remembered doing the exact same thing to my family as the younger sister.

The mom, without making eye contact with me, watched her girl in the water and said

"It's hard to get mad at her because she's having so much fun."

I agreed.

I can't wait to (slowly) read and digest the rest of  Play. The memory of this little girl refusing to stop playing and the mom not interfering will stay with me as a real-life experience of kid and adult bowing down to the importance of play. As the school year fast approaches I hope that I can bring play more into the student experience in my art classroom. For me, the idea of play in the art room means time allowed to practice and experiment independently with art materials.

What are some other ways I can encourage play in my art room?
What are some ways that you encourage play at home or in your classroom?
Leave a comment or send an email! I'd love to hear from you.

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A Picture Book about Play and Art
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