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The Importance of Play

“Tell Me and I Will Forget; Show Me and I May Remember; Involve Me and I Will Understand.”
This Chinese Proverb has been the guiding principle of KIDSPACE Adaptive Play and Wellness. We are an integrated health facility (Chiropractors, Naturopath and Recreational Therapists) who share the same vision. We all want to treat our clients (old and young) in loving and playful manner. In writing this blog, I hope to provide you all with insight, laughter, blunt truths, and a renewed love and respect for play.

Over the years, play has been dismissed as a frivoulous activity. We’re now operating in a world that has decided that everything we do be “purposeful.” And our definition has in many ways become very narrow. When we do an activity, we have to prove and justify the outcome. So much of our “play” these days has specific goals in mind, like improving cognitive development or gaining motor skills.

I teach about play. I, in fact, majored in play. I could talk for hours about play and am passionate about how play affects development. The following is a true story from my household:

During a play date with several children at my home. My daughters decided they wanted to play restaurant. They diligently spent 3 hours and 45 minutes of the playdate setting up the following:

  • Who would be the chef, waitress, hostess, customer etc
  • what would be on the menu and created a menu
  • a kitchen and dining area
  • salt and pepper shakers created with glass jars and beads
  • a commercial to advertise the restaurant

you get the idea…..

Meanwhile, I’m upstairs listening in in “Recreational Therapist Mode” and am slightly annoyed that they didn’t actually “play” restaurant.

What I learned upon reflection: THEY WERE PLAYING THE ENTIRE TIME!!!

And these are the skills they worked on:

Social: negotiation and persuasive argument about who gets to play each role in the restaurant.

Executive Functioning: Assessing what was needed and planning the restaurant. Coming up with a menu and designing a commercial.

Gross Motor Skills: Moving furniture.

Fine Motor Skills: Designing menus and cue cards.

Sensory Integration: Choosing different textured items to serve.

Creativity: See above!

It seems like they learned a lot during the play that I thought they never actually got to!

This was one of many aha moments that have solidified for me how powerful play can be and how many skills are learned, especially during unstructured play. I am happy I was smart enough not to intervene in their play that day.

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