My toddler is starting to play. Just the other day I noticed her take one of her little Ostheimer animals and move it up the little treehouse play-stand I have set up on her table. Then she took the other animals and set them on top of one of her playsilks, all of them lying down as if they were sleeping. She moved several more animals up and down the ladder of the play-stand and made a little sing-song as she worked, dadadaa-dadadaa. She was actually playing. It was a neat thing to watch. My baby was turning into a playful child right before my eyes. Of course she has been “playing” for quite some time,wrapping her Pink Baby in blankets, pushing her stroller around, moving stuffed animals from place to place; but it’s never truly looked like “imaginary play” before this week. I get a little giddy thinking about play. I’ve spent so many of my adult years studying play in young children and watching many children play in many different early childhood settings. I love what play, especially what imaginary play can bring to a child. The joy, the excitement, the drama, the understanding of the world around them. I can vividly remember playing myself, as a child. reenacting stories I read about early settlers or Native Americans. Pretending to be sea lions or dogs or Mothers or witches or horses. Nothing was off-limits and my play would continue on and on throughout the days and evenings.
The importance of play has stuck with me after my own experiences as a child, my experiences as a preschool teacher and my graduate studies in early education. I want Ellie to have a rich childhood full of imaginary play. I want her to have a passion for life and learning and I really think that staying playful and allowing her the chance to really play will keep her excited about learning and the world around her. Seeing the small glimpses of real “play” makes me excited for the fairy tales we will read and the puppet shows we may have, the hundreds of songs that she may make up for her imaginary scenarios and the stories she may tell me when she’s deeply invested in her own playful worlds. I hear Plato’s words ringing in my ears, “Life must be lived as PLAY”. My daughter has just begun her playful journey reminding me to play more in everyday life too.
– Joining Heather for Just Write: an exercise in free writing your ordinary and extraordinary moments.
(and a little side thank you to Jenn at baby by the sea for inspiring me to write a little bit about the joys of play.