We Need Playful Children
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by: Megan Rosker, mom, writer, teacher and education advocate.
The everyday monotony of life can pull a mom and dad down, allowing them to fall out of touch with their playful side, the side they naturally exhibited as children. However, while our role is to now be responsible to our families, we also have a responsibility to show with our children how to play.
Our kids push us to be adventurous and do things we may not otherwise think of doing. The relationship is reciprocal. We need our children to help us stay in touch with our natural, playful side and they need us to be role models of play. They push us to be the explorers, the sailors, the divers, the mountain climbers we dreamed to be as children and now can continue to be for a just a day with our kids. But our current life style culture doesn’t embrace how important this truly is. Parents need to make an urgent commitment to let their children play.
Currently, we treat play casually, with almost no importance. We watch our children struggle in school and gain weight. We wonder how to deal with bullying and too much screen time, but we don’t realize the tool to start solving these problems is basic and obvious. Our children need to play. Parents, teachers and advocates have to market play with the same urgency that Apple markets their products or Baby Einstein pushed theirs. Parents desperately think they need these products and in many cases they don’t. It’s just marketing, but we are tricked into believing that the product will drastically improve the our lives as parents. The makers of these products aren’t terribly interested in increasing the quality of life of the child, it is mostly about the parent. Looking at it this way, we can readily see, who it is we need to “sell” on the importance of play.
Play gets treated with a “maybe tomorrow” attitude. There are no sexy commercials for play. There hasn’t been any glamour in this movement, but that isn’t to say there couldn’t be. In order to create urgency, we have to truly believe that it is important, not just as an ideal, but in practice. We have to believe that people are going to want to take this product home and immediately start using it, which means they need to see the advantage of play.
So what is the advantage? When parents play, explore and innovate with their kids, they do things they would never do on their own, but enjoy immensely. Parents love to dive in to the newness of an adventure right alongside their children. Our kids help us stay involved, enthused and excited about learning and exploring, even as we grow older and our responsibilities may become greater.
We have to tell and sell parents on the fact that play really is something kids CAN’T live without AND neither can we. Play is the product that brings back the spontaneity into a parent’s life and teaches a child how to play, explore and innovate appropriately. Children NEED their parents to facilitate play, but parents NEED playful children as well.
Bio: Megan Rosker is a mom to three children (6, 4, 2), writer and former public school teacher. She is a play and education advocate and is the founder of two sites, Let Children Play and Let Children Achieve. As well she co-founded World Play Date. She lives in warm, sunny Florida where she and her family love to swim in the Gulf of Mexico, hang out at the beach and ride their bikes everywhere. Find her at: www.letchildrenachieve.blogspot.com and www.letchildrenplay.com.
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I could not agree more with this article. Live have steadily gotten so sedentary and the kids are worse off for it. I plan to get “unplugged” more and simply play with my kids.
I’m always surprised that more moms aren’t just as lazy as me – playing is so much easier than trying to plan a million things.
I recently posted 12 Surprising Benefits of Play by parenting guru Dr. Michelle Borba at http://www.pragmaticmom.com/?p=16555
She is also trying to get the word out about the importance of play (as in unstructured, old fashioned) which seems to be in short supply around here in the land of Race to Nowhere.
Megan, I am cheering from the sidelines here! Carol Rasco from Reading is Fundamental reminded me one day that play is children’s work and I think that’s true in many ways. It’s certainly the way children learn so much – from understanding about measurement all the way to coping with fears. And you’re so right, we parents need to keep our playfulness, and not just for our children’s sakes.