NUMBER 216 27 FEBRUARY 2003 PLAY
INDEX OF QUOTES
Beginning in the toddler years, the growth of independence is a very necessary and important objective for children. They need practice in learning to be independent and to make decisions in their day-to-day living. This can be done, in the early stages of childhood, through play. Children choose what they will play and how long they will continue. They arrange, organise and plan what they are doing and with whom they will play. These may seem unimportant issues to us, but to children they are momentous. They are in the business of establishing thinking patterns, problem-solving abilities, decision-making skills, relationships with others and the ability to handle their emotions. These skills will stand them in good stead right into adulthood.
All play is bound up with emotion feelings of pleasure and fulfillment, unhappiness and anxiety, guilt and frustration. Play is one of the most important ways in which children learn that feelings can be safely expressed, that aggression and hostility can be controlled and managed. The move from self-centred-ness to other-centredness in children is an arduous one. The way is often filled with pitfalls. Our task is to provide them with a stimulating environment and to be on hand to care for and help them deal with their struggles in this regard.
In present day society young children often grow up in a world totally unsuited to their needs finding themselves confined with few outlets for their energetic bodies, busy fingers, inquisitive minds and spontaneous feelings. Perhaps because play has no "end results" which can be seen to be useful, or productive, it has been undervalued or even frowned upon. There is sometimes a feeling among adults that play is a form of self-indulgence and therefore we are spoiling children if we do not restrict these activities. However, play is an activity which is concerned with the whole child. It uses up every ounce of the childs energy. It encourages the imagination. It develops skills of both body and mind. It brings about understanding, warmth and empathy towards others. The willingness to struggle through to a desired end, to persevere at all costs, is as much part of play as it is of work. Play offers healing for hurt and sadness. It breaks down tension and allows self-expression. Play and growth are working partners in the business of life. To cut out or diminish these experiences is to deprive the child of growth socially, emotionally, physically and intellectually.
A great many adults have never learned to lose themselves in spontaneous fun, but if you work with kids -you need to learn to be a kid all over again. You need to think back on the games of your own childhood and identify their intrinsic learning benefits. Take for example the simple game of "Five-Stones". (I think this game has another name, but I only know it as five-stones.) I have spent countless rainy-day afternoons with groups of kids who will spend hours practicing and honing their skills. What a wonderful exercise for hand-eye co-ordination.
As child care workers we need to have a collection of activity ideas a grab-bag of off-the-cuff ideas for games and discussion starters, stories and some concrete materials such as a deck of cards; a tin of crayons; old computer paper we have scrounged from people, for drawing on; a length of string; some marbles; some stones of course; some corny jokes; a yo-yo or two; a favourite story book, and a few dress-up things...
Mitchell, K. (1995). Difficult or just plan bored? The use of activities as an effective management and therapeutic tool. In Child & Youth Care: Reconstruction and Development for Peace. Cape Town: NACCW. pp. 12-13