Upon observing her son's class, a parent of a kindergarten child asked the principal, "These kids are just playing--when are they going to start learning something?"
All parents reach a point when they anxiously wait for their children to begin "real school." Up until that time, many parents view their children's activities as nothing more than mindless play. It is no surprise to parents that healthy young children devote much of their time and energy to play. After all, to adults play is just for fun; it's relaxing and recreational, not work. They perceive child's play as just that, play. And more important, many feel there is no learning value in their children's play.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Play for young children is creative, spontaneous, unpredictable, and absolutely fun. While play may seem like a frivolous activity, it is an important medium for young children's learning. It is a significant contributor to the child's cognitive, physical, emotional, and social development.
Play is the natural and best way for children to learn as they investigate for themselves and observe others at play and work. They are natural anthropologists who have a need and desire to investigate their world through real experiences and natural environments.
Take a moment to remember your own childhood. How did you spend your time? In play, of course! Outside or inside, quietly or loudly, with a big mess or no mess at all, play is the way children make sense out of the complicated and complex world in which we live. Play is the medium children use to take risks, to challenge themselves both physically and mentally, to create something new, to deal with fears, and to enjoy the moment as they construct new meanings.