The Following Excerpt from Elementary School Principal Dr. Maureen Cheever’s article in the Hubbard Woods Item on February 8, 2011 provides a wonderful testament to the importance of Imaginary Play and some of the leading research that underpins it:
“…There is mounting empirical evidence that children need play to figure out how to independently create an idea and test it, independently figure out who they are as problem-solvers, how to navigate social waters, and how to be persistent in the face of a myriad of life’s challenges. I’d like to draw your attention to three sources of information on this topic, the first two from pediatricians (Dr. Ianelli/Dr. Ginsburg and Dr. Brown) and the third from the Alliance for Childhood, a DC based, non-profit organization which brings together powerful voices from the worlds of education, policy, health, and child advocacy. Why is it so important to let kids play? In an article by Vincent Iannelli, M.D., he cites the powerful report, “The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds”, written by Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg and published in the American Academy of Pediatricians Journal, Pediatrics (January 2007) (www.aap.org/pressroom/playfinal.pdf). Summarizing, Dr. Iannelli shares, in addition to being important to healthy brain development, the benefits of play include:
- allowing kids to use their creativity and develop their imagination, dexterity, and other strengths
- encouraging kids to interact with the world around them
- helping kids conquer their fears and build their confidence
- teaching kids to work in groups, so they learn to share and resolve conflicts
- helping kids practice decision making skills
- having fun
His article continues saying that it is important to note that this kind of play is meant to be unstructured, child-driven play. It is not the kind of play-time that is totally controlled by adults and doesn’t include passive play, such as sitting in front of a video game, computer, or TV. (http://pediatrics.about.com/od/activitiesforkids/a/1006_free_play.htm)
As a second source, in his groundbreaking book on the science of play, “Play”, Dr. Brown shares
Research that explains why play is essential to our social skills, adaptability, intelligence, creativity, ability to problem solve, and more. He states that our ability to play throughout life is the single most important factor in determining our success and happiness. Backed by the latest research, “Play” explains that play is hardwired into our brains—it is the mechanism by which we become resilient, smart, and adaptable people. The book provides a fascinating blend of cutting-edge neuroscience, biology, psychology, social science, and inspiring human stories of the transformative power of play. This book proves why play just might be the most important work we ever do.
Finally, I invite you to scan the landmark document entitled “Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School”, by Edward Miller and Joan Almon (who was the featured speaker at the Winnetka Alliance for Early Childhood Networking Dinner last January) and supported by Sam Meisels, current president of the Erikson Institute (and featured speaker at the Winnetka Alliance for Early Childhood Networking Dinner in January 2003 and 2007).
http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/sites/allianceforchildhood.org/files/file/kindergarten_report.pdf A great quote from this document is, “Too many schools place a double burden on young children. First, they heighten their stress by demanding that they master material beyond their developmental level. Then they deprive children of their chief means of dealing with that stress – creative play.” The report calls for educators to develop two central methods in the continuum of approaches to kindergarten education: “Classroom Rich in Child-Initiated Play” (exploring the world through play with the active presence o teachers) AND “Playful Classroom with Focused Learning” (teachers guiding learning with rich, experiential activities). Our teachers do a great job of implementing those central approaches.
Bottom Line: There are many resources that I could have included in this little bit of an essay (notably David Elkind and his life’s work about the power of play, the recent documentary, “Where Do The Children Play?” that was promoted by the Winnetka Alliance of Early Childhood in 2008, and the book, Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv), but what I really wanted to do was to remind all of us about the importance of play, as children and adults. We know this inherently, and the research bears it out, that we all function better when play is maintained in our lives.”