It is amazing to reflect on how much our children learn in the first few years of their lives. After they are born, it is a continuous steep climb up the mountain of self-discovery, exploration, and developmental milestones: Rolling, sitting, standing, walking, talking, eating, and playing. Play can be incorporated into all that we do as parents in order to help facilitate learning for our children. When infants are learning to roll, we can place a toy or favorite object just out of reach in order to help motivate them to learn this skill. Toys come in all different shapes, sizes and colours which can be ideal for teaching concepts of red vs. blue, big vs. small, and circle vs. square. As parents, we can make learning fun for our little people!
“For a preschooler, play is more than mere amusement. Play is the laboratory in which a child experiences his world, experiments with new roles and ideas, and learns to feel comfortable in the world of movement and sensation. … children need unstructured time in which to exercise their imaginations and their bodies. Provide the raw materials, then turn your child loose to play and learn” (p. 73, Positive Discipline for Preschoolers).
Children learn through play, and they learn best during unstructured play when their imaginations are able to roam free. Have you ever watched your little one pick up a train and say, “Look, the train can fly!” This is a great example of minds free to explore and imagine. What would happen if someone takes the train, puts it back on the ground and says, “Trains can’t fly; trains can only move on the track”? What then?
Children are born with infinite potential and through various interactions as they learn and grow we may unknowingly inhibit their natural creativity. Reality and realism are important concepts that have a time and a place i.e. if your child states they can fly and wants to climb onto the roof and prove it to you – time to get real! However, in the world of make-believe, there are no limits. Trains can fly, cats can sound like dogs and be the colour purple, and the play kitchen in our playroom can absolutely take us on a mission to Mars, or so my husband tells me.
What would happen if we encouraged our little people to think outside the box, without limits, and not only imagine, but truly believe that anything is possible. What kind of adults would they grow up to be? Hopefully ones that will change the world.
“Play is the answer to the question, How does anything new ever come about?” Jean Piaget (as cited in “The Power of Play” by Dr. David Elkind).
Until next time, I’m Jenny the Mama Coach.