The following is a guest post by Rachel Turiel of 6512 and growing.
Factoids abound on the benefits of play. Entire books have been written on the subject. Play develops children’s fine and gross motor skills, communication, collaboration, imagination, problem-solving and ability to focus.
Playing allows ideas to synthesize and take root.
I’m more interested in what I can see.
My 9-year-old son has folded up approximately 364 paper airplanes in the past six months. The sound of paper creasing is the very background music of our lives. Cooking dinner now holds the risk of careening airplanes landing in an open pot of soup.
Who am I to say this isn’t worthwhile? With each trial and error his planes become faster, lighter, more enduring, (and necessitating an investment in protective eye equipment for whole family).
While Col’s endless design and crafting binges scratches some unknowable internal itch, I see geometry, engineering, principles of flight, and a child in the flow of his own creativity.
I watch my 7-year-old daughter morph through 10 characters a day. She’s benevolent school teacher, bucking pony, playful puppy, salsa dancer with moves I envy, and strict mom doling out harsh punishments to her misbehaving son (played by her brother).
It’s said that reading fiction engages the reader’s sense of empathy, allowing one to walk another’s path for a few hundred pages. I see Rose’s need to try on different characters, feeling what it might be like to be a orphaned unicorn, a wild horse running free.
I try not to get bent out of shape when the children’s play includes glueing Legos to paper (as it did this very morning), or carting every dress-up item out of the bedroom until our living room has become a bouncy house of leotards and tulle.
There’s a persnickety schoolmarm in me that wants the dollhouse furniture to stay in the dollhouse (as opposed to divvied up among ten purses). But I also want my children to be good at playing.
I know I’m writing well when there’s nothing I’d rather be doing, when my mind is so engaged it’s pinging from one word to the next without even hearing the chocolate singing to me from the pantry.
Col and Rose (and your peeps, too) are in this state 10 different times a day: making magic from the very depths of their own wild mind. It’s sacred. It’s the daily special on the menu of childhood. It’s training for the gift of finding your passion as an adult.
As it’s been said: Figure out your passion, for your passion will lead you directly to your purpose.
I take comfort in the fact that right now my kids need little more than to be turned loose. Turned loose in the yard, at the park, in the woods, at the river, in their own house with their bedraggled collection of toys. Neurons are firing! Profound mental connections span new territory!
But the kids don’t care, they’re just doing their work.
What sorts of benefits to your child’s play have you noticed?