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Why play? Thoughts from Joan Almon, early childhood educator and play advocate

We adults need to remember: children just want to go outside and play with friends, and there’s a reason for that.

Children gathered by a fort built of sticks

PCWS was fortunate to recently host Joan Almon, Director of the Alliance for Childhood and longtime early childhood educator, for a talk on how we can raise fulfilled children in the 21st century. She shared some thoughts on why time for child-initiated play is one of her Essentials of Healthy Childhood (more on a few other essentials in future posts here!).

We think our children are so smart because they understand computers. But guess what? Children have always been smart. Wanting to learn is innate in children. Something bubbles up in the child, they have an idea, and they know how to organize and direct it. They are engineers; they are scientists. They explore the world full-bodied.

Child building a fort with sticks

Children haven’t changed drastically in recent years. Child development hasn’t changed. It’s the surroundings that have changed.

In play, children discover who they are and discover the world around them. By giving our children time and space to play, we allow them to make these discoveries.

Children are doing meaningful work when they play. They use play to work through and come to an understanding of their world. They work through the changes and challenges in their young lives, like the birth of a sibling or the death of a family friend. Play is powerful.

How can you create more space for play in your children’s lives? Joan suggests an “if you build it, they will come” type of approach. Amass some cardboard boxes, sheets, masking tape, clothespins, branches, and other loose parts. Leave the props out and accessible to children. Pretty soon, you’ll have a whole neighborhood of kids in your yard.

Sure, technology seems like it has taken over children's play today…but kids will love the ‘real’ childhood stuff if we provide it. You have to make an effort but you can get children back into the world of play.

Children walking through the woods

And by the way, play is not just for children. The drive to play doesn’t go away as adults—it’s part of the human being to play. Go out and play today!

Joan’s new book, Playing It Up, highlights play projects in different communities. Perhaps it will inspire you to create your own play project!

#Play #ForestKindergarten

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