The importance of play for everyone

The suggestion in the new Literacy Council booklet, Children Need Play Every Day, to let children take the lead during play struck a chord with me.

It’s easy for adults to forget how to really play.  Sometimes we let product take over process or play.  We need to be reminded to just let things happen. 

I got thinking about how children can spend hours playing with trucks or make-believe games.  I know I did that as a child, but it is hard now to suspend reality as an adult, especially for any length of time.  Pretend play is more than just fun, it’s important for a child’s development.  Parents can encourage pretend play by reading and telling stories, and by talking and explaining things to their children.

World Snow Day on Sunday also got me thinking about play, as did last week’s CBC story about the lack of outdoor play hurting a child’s development.  Increasingly I hear parents say they can’t get their children outside to play.  These children would rather ‘play’ with their electronic gadgets and computers indoors.  It’s a difficult situation for parents to deal with in today’s world, especially if you like to spend your time gaming or on social media.  Not every parent can be an outdoors role model.

Play is remarkably important not just for children but also for adults.  It improves creativity, learning, relationships, productivity, and our emotional health.  I know many people who find it difficult to play.  They may not have done it for years; it may be something they learned to see as frivolous, immature or irresponsible.  Trauma and stress often contribute to this too.

It was fascinating to see a recent article on a British website asking “Do parents really need to be taught how to play with their own children?”  In some cases, yes, and one of the places to learn this is through family literacy activities in northern communities.

Family literacy activities help us reclaim our sense of play and learn fun, healthy ways to play with children.  Family Literacy Day next Monday, January 27 brings attention to the importance of play and its relationship to learning and healthy individuals.  You don’t have to be a parent to take part in the family literacy activities in your community.  It’s not just children who need to play every day!

-- Kathryn Barry Paddock

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