As parents and teachers we are so very attune to our children’s needs; from their initial nutritional requirements to ensuring that they surpass milestones in a timely manner. We strive to make them social, happy and keep them entertained. We read books, sing songs, present age-appropriate art ideas, and encourage letter and number recognition.
Later we arrange endless play dates, are sure to limit television and are strict on what is viewed, sign up for music class, dance, gymnastics, soccer, swimming, and karate. We research (online and at those play dates) and register two years in advance, for that perfect preschool.
We are well-intended, but I ask you this: Do our kids know how to simply play?
The answer seems so obvious, Of course they know how to play, look at all the activities that I have provided, all the structure and routine that I have presented to them.
And again I wonder, are today’s children comfortable just playing?
I am not guilt-free when I ask these questions. The reason that I know to ask them, (besides the frustration that builds in me when my three year old says she’s bored or asks what to do next?), is because I see this with my kindergarten students every year.
These are very sweet, intelligent children; varying in background and some even being very out-going and social, but give them “free time” and they kind of look at you like you have three heads.
I am the least-likely person to knock the importance of structure and routine. In fact often in my house, after we eat dinner, tub, have bottles, read books and brush teeth, (always in that order), I’ll be asked while rubbing backs, “Mommy, what do we have in the morning?”
Sometime this thrills me as I divulge the stimulating event that I have planned, but other times this innocent question makes me cringe, Am I overbooking my kids when they should just be able to play?
Creativity is defined as having the ability to create or produce, characterized by originality and expressiveness, found by using one’s imagination.
I am now conscious to provide the opportunity to be creative to my children and students alike. I am also mindful to encourage my children and students to use their imaginations and to be creative.
By allowing morning at home, pajamas still on and the toy room left to explore, I feel I can accomplish this. There are days when plans are not made. When the books, puzzles and crafts are away, there are couches to turn into fortresses and dolls to have tea parties with. There are cars and trucks waiting to win the “Piston Cup” and toy soldiers and miniature horses to head to battle. There needs to be time for kids to just be kids.
In school there is time when work is done, routines are put on hold and friendships are made. Kids get a chance to get to know one another; not just as lab or writing partners, but as kids.
Everyday I see the importance for creative play and exploration. By making this time available, we as parents and teachers are in fact meeting our children and students’ needs. By promoting creativity, we are forming lively, compassionate kids who are self-confident and independent thinkers and problem solvers; commendable and lifelong traits.
By Tara Hudson