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The power of play

February 9, 2009

by Jenni Sebora

I sometimes wonder if our children will be socially inept as they grow into adults. Face-to-face communication is being replaced by Facebook, or whatever other web sites there are.

Talking with someone on the phone or in person is being replaced by e-mailing and texting. People don’t even answer their phones; they communicate by texting.

Computers, and the other types of electronic gadgets, are often preferred over good ol’ imaginative play and discovery, which in turn, leads to other issues – attention issues, weight and health problems . . .

We have kids texting when the “textees” are right next to them. It may just be about the newness and excitement of it, or maybe not.

We have kids harassing other kids they don’t even know, but the ease of texting and emailing makes bullying much easier. It is easier to remain anonymous, at least for awhile.

Now, we all know it is about moderation; and we, as the adults, have to be the moderators. Our children are spending more of their time being entertained by passive play rather than by interacting with others or by using their creativity.

Child development experts know that play activities are essential for healthy development, physically, cognitively and emotionally.

Research tells us that much of brain development occurs after birth. Thus, the activities our little ones are engaged in stimulate and influence the pattern of the connections made between the nerve cells in their brains, www.childdevelopmentinfo.com noted.

Play teaches children to be active and make choices, helps them practice skills to mastery, and awakens their imagination.

The web site noted that “play that links sensori-motor, cognitive, and social-emotional experiences provides an ideal setting for brain development.”

Experts also know that brains are still developing into teenhood. Our children, even beyond baby, toddler and preschool age, need to continue to be involved in activities that stimulate the brain.

According to Montessori, creativity (involved in play) helps expand problem solving, social skills, and language and physical skills.

Play is a child’s work. Toys are instruments that they use in their work.

Toys help children figure things out, solve problems, build muscle control, use their imaginations, and learn how to cooperate, the Child Development Institute tells us.

We, as parents, need to encourage play, especially now when our children have so many other major influences and choices.

When I was growing up, play was my day; well, besides my chores. We did not have computers or organized sports (until I was in junior high). We just played. Imagination was at the heart of our everyday play.

Our bikes, with ropes around the handlebars, became the props for a rodeo. Egg cartons, milk cartons, small food product boxes, along with some paper, markers, felt, and scissors, transformed into Barbie doll furniture.

We all know that the simplest objects can become the source of such enjoyable entertainment for our children – boxes, pots, pans, and spoons become castles and forts and instruments.

It probably is important that our children, at some point, have access to computers and other technology instruments (with caution and supervision) because our world is full of technology and more jobs require this knowledge. But there should be a limit to its use.

Let’s not forget about the importance of play dates and boxes and pots and pans and “rodeos” and the whole wide world of outside. Our children need these things to help them develop healthy mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively.

And as adults, a little play for us would be good, too.