All My Kid Does Is "Play"

Absolutely, that is what kids do. The amazing thing about what we frequently call "play" is that it is the best way for children to learn, especially if adults support them in this! Imagine this scenario that everyone has seen at some point in their lives: A group of children is on a playground with an adult nearby. The children are playing on the slide, the ladders, the swings, etc. They might be playing chase, or some other imaginative game. Everyone is happy and active. The adult is watching from the sidelines ensuring everyone is remaining safe.

Now, imagine this scenario with an adult that is actively engaged with those same children on the same playground. She can take the opportunity to discuss so many learning concepts. Here are a few examples:

• Having the children touch the metal of the equipment to discuss its temperature (cold vs. hot/ warm). A follow-up discussion could occur in the afternoon to discuss how the metal railings were cold that morning and warm in the afternoon after the sun had been shining all day.

• Assisting the children in sliding different objects down the slide and discussing why some items slide quickly (balls) and others are slower (clothing, such as jackets).

• A wealth of observations and discussions on the weather- windy, sunny, cloudy, snowy, cool, etc. and what causes the weather to be this way. For example, it’s a cool day because the clouds have covered the sun. A completely different conversation could occur every day, depending upon the weather.

• If children are playing an imaginative game where they are pirates trying to save their ship from the “bad guys”, she can ask questions regarding their strategies, offer other ideas, have the children work with each other to talk to the “bad guys” letting them know it’s not nice to take what doesn’t belong to them.

In one hour of “playing” on the playground, the children just learned about weather and temperatures, gravity, and conflict resolution. Now, that sounds like a fun day with a fun adult!

Rebecca Wilson, MS, is mother to Emogene (IC7) and is an enthusiast for all things related to young children.  She earned her Bachelors Degree in Child Development and her Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education both from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  She has worked with children of all ages from birth through 3rd grade in different positions from teaching to administration to consulting.  Currently, she is a grant manager for the early childhood council in Adams County.