WHY IS PLAY disappearing from children’s lives? Several recent studies into children’s imaginative play have found a dramatic reduction in both quantity and quality of play. Researchers have attributed this, variously, to reduction in play environments and play opportunities, brought about by changes in the culture of childhood in general.
RECENT COVID LOCKDOWNS and social distancing regulations have had a devastating and potentially long lasting impact on a whole generation of children, through massive reduction of social play opportunities. Young people now face extra pressure to “catch up” with “missed work”, further reducing vital opportunities for play.
LEV VYGOTSKY WRITES, “In play, a child is always above his average age, above his daily behaviour; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself. As in the focus of a magnifying glass, play contains all developmental tendencies in a condensed form; in play it is as though the child were trying to jump above the level of his normal behaviour.”
JUST AS CHILDREN play at grown ups, with limited prior understanding of the roles and responsibilities, so we as adults play at new roles and responsibilities, working from observation and more abstract texts, until we learn through experience. Without skills in playing make believe, we hamper our ability to become what we imagine we can be.
BRING BACK PLAY into the children’s lives. Let’s fill our homes and schools and communities with opportunities for imaginative play. Not as a respite from what is misunderstood to be more serious work, Not as a respite from what is misunderstood to be more serious work, and not simply by adding some playful elements to adult-directed instruction.
THINK HOW CRUCIAL imaginative play is, in young people’s development of self-regulation, empathy, social understanding, self-awareness, cultural awareness, memory, communication, imagination and symbolic thinking. Think how, in Maria Montessori’s words, “play is the work of the child”.