Playtime IS Their Job

Am I educating my children enough? I am often amazed at how much I worry about this. I know that others worry about this same issue because we frequently talk about it.

My thought process typically goes something like this: “Does my son know enough to prepare him for Pre-K? What if he doesn’t know some sight words? Hmm, my two-year old can barely count to 10…”

I am (mostly) a reasonable person, but it took reading a book called Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen to remind me of a very simple fact: children learn and express themselves best through play. Not only do kids learn best through play, but lightheartedly joining in their play can also deter some of those behaviors that annoy me the most. I even recently side-stepped a confrontation with my oldest by singing and dancing… (pretty big news in my house where I am usually out numbered 3 to1!)

Numbers, shapes, colors, and letters will come naturally through play. We can remember from our own childhoods playing “I Spy” when driving down the road, shouting out colors or letters. These things are reinforced at home, preschool, kindergarten, and beyond. How much time do we allow our kids to simply play and express their emotions the only way they know how? So often we forget, as parents, that our children don’t initially know what anxiety feels like or that people cry when feeling sad or hurt. As parents, are we helping our children identify their feelings by observing their actions and reactions? Do we allow them the time and comfort needed in order to regroup so they can try again?

Our children experience trauma every day, though, hopefully not in the sense of a car accident or the death of a loved one. But these little traumas happen when a kid brother or sister takes their toy away, or pushes them, if their prized art work gets torn or crushed, or if they get sand in their eye while in a sandbox with a friend.

When children are in free play they aren’t only engaging their fine and gross motor skills, but they are also organizing their thoughts and feelings and expressing them in their most natural form.

It’s so difficult when you are in the midst of raising young children to realize how short a time it is when you struggle just to get through the day- and how fast the time goes. But it will and it does.