Play is a wonderful concept, and we should all play more no matter what age we are. The benefits of play were recently espoused in a CBC Radio series and have been linked to improvements in relaxation, stimulation, imagination, creativity, problem-solving and emotional well-being; and this is just for adults! The benefits for children are too long to even begin listing!
I wanted to take this opportunity to address a couple of the questions I receive when people see me playing with my daughter, or when I talk about how we spend the evenings after work and daycare.
The first question came from my neighbour while we were playing outside one day. Our children are the same age and often play together. We were also doing some cleaning at the time and had found some plastic cups that were going to go in the recycling. I took the plastic cups and stacked them in to a pyramid, gave my daughter a ball and encouraged her to throw the ball to knock the pyramid down. As she tried this, the question came: “You are so creative and have lots of ideas for play. How do you do it?”
I am always looking for opportunities to play by asking myself questions about the environment or objects we have around the space. What can these be used for? How can I change the environment to encourage movement? What am I allowed to move, take or use? Will my wife be angry if I do this? For the cups, the idea came from bowling and stacking cups, and the knowledge that everyone likes to knock things down! This game quickly evolved in to the children wheeling their ride-on cars through the pyramids and towers I would hastily stack before quickly moving my hands out of the way so I didn’t clobber a kid in the face! Some imagination and prior experience of physical activities was what inspired the activity and created play for 45 minutes from something that was going to be thrown away.
The second question usually comes up in conversation with other parents: “How do you have the energy to play after a long day at work?” For the answer to this question, I refer you back to the list at the top; relaxation, stimulation, imagination, creativity, problem-solving and emotional well-being. Add to this list the chance to engage and interact with my daughter while creating laughter and fun within the house I ask, how can you not have the energy? Yes, some days are harder than others, and with the weather and darker evenings it is more difficult at this time of year. But play does not have to be running, jumping and careening around the playground. Play can engage many other aspects of physical and emotional development in more contained settings, like creating structures out of blocks, empty yogurt containers or tissue boxes. It can be dancing to music, drawing, reading, trying to balance on one leg, playing hide and seek, creating forts, explaining the way you prepare dinner to your children and so much more. Play does not have any limitations and takes many forms.
If you are stuck for ideas, take the time to enrol your children in active programs that facilitate games and play. Make sure to stay and watch the program, thinking about the household items or tasks that are similar to the games being played in the program.
I still have the same tasks to achieve in the evening as everyone else, such as making meals, doing the laundry and vacuuming, and that allows me to come up with even more opportunities to play in other rooms of the house. Dirty sock basketball anyone?
~Chris Wright is Physical Literacy Coordinator at PISE and proud father of a beautiful, little girl. He is in charge of all of the fabulous kids programs.