To Appreciate the Influence of Play
As the grandfather of three preschool children I am reminded on a regular basis of the joy of play and imagination. I remember when my wife and I babysat for our oldest grandchild Maya last year when she was about 3 1/2 years old. We put her in for her afternoon nap. I could hear her gleefully talking to herself and it was obvious that falling sleep was the last item on her personal agenda.
After a while I knocked on her door and asked, "Is it hard to fall asleep?"
Maya smiled and answered, "Yes."
I noticed many of her stuffed animals around her bed and simply said, "It looks like you're having fun with all of your animals."
She said "yes" again and invited me to watch her as she told a story, sometimes including me in her play. It was a joy to observe the enthusiasm with which she engaged in her fantasy play, weaving a story that involved different characters.
Later that day she played a game with my wife that she has played on numerous occasions (basically just with my wife), involving a baby shark. Although we as adults might tire after repeating the seemingly same scenario time after time, Maya seemed to relish each and every re-enactment. I looked at Maya's younger sister Sophia observing the shark play. Sophia wasn't even two years old at the time, but she seemed ready to join in the fun.
A few days ago I watched as my 2 1/2-year-old grandson Teddy lined up toy trucks and other vehicles, placing them on the couch or in a play garage. He attempted to explain something to me and while I had trouble understanding all of his words, it was evident that he was having fun.
These descriptions of the play of young children are not unusual. Anyone who has interacted with young children can offer many examples of their rich imagination and their use of the simplest toy or object to transport them into a wonderfully imaginative world filled with possibility. As educators and developmental and clinical psychologists have often reminded us, such imaginative play is not only fun but offers opportunities for the growth of cognitive, language, and emotional skills. In my role as a psychologist I have seen many children in therapy. I am well aware that play is an invaluable tool for not only understanding the inner world of children, but for assisting them to learn more effective ways of coping with challenges that they face.
Permission to reprint granted by Dr. Robert Brooks. All rights reserved.
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