Play All Day?
Working in the early childhood education field, whether directly in a daycare setting, family home care, or some other form of childcare, it is important to remember that the concept of PLAY helps promote healthy child development in many areas. In fact, according to the Journal of Pediatrics, (Ginsburg, 2007), “play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.” Sounds to me that this makes for a well-rounded child!
During your Child Development Associate journey with , you are asked to complete competency statements. These statements are designed to get you thinking about the “whole” child, in that all areas of their development are thriving. Although there is no one simple way to ensure we are meeting the whole child, making time for play every day with children, can surely help!
We know it is important for children to have structured activities planned, such as circle time, reading, nap time, lunch, snack, etc. However, we must also not forget to “schedule” unstructured play. This is the time where the teacher has limited interaction or direction into what the child is doing, unless invited in by the child directly. Remember to allow enough time for imaginations to soar and go as far as the child can allow. It is recommended to give long stretches of free-play time so that a child can carry out his/her ideas. If building a railroad track takes 30 minutes, and play time is over, the child has not been given enough time to see where that train track will lead. Will other students join in and ask to ride the train? Will the child act out stopping and starting, taking turns with passengers, giving directions, etc.?
Although it can be difficult at times to fit it all in, remember that as the early childhood educator, as the teacher, as the role model, as their usual first formal school setting, they have years ahead of them for structured learning, standardized tests, homework, etc. Be the teacher who allows the child to be a child. What is the worst that could happen? Children would use their creativity more? They would be more expressive? They would allow their interests to guide them? Sounds like a win-win to me!
If parents are worried that all their child does while in your care is “play all day” explain to them the concept of play, and how it helps enhance the cognitive, physical, and socio-emotional well-being of their child. Now go play, Teacher!