Catching Up on Play
Updated: Mar 16, 2021
Never mind lengthening the school day, or shortening the school holidays, we need to consciously allocate time for children to catch up on play!
I have made it my mission to understand why humans need play, how they play and what play can do for us all, regardless of age. We have evolved to play because play helps us survive. If it wasn't essential for our development, we wouldn't do it.
Social play, in particular, helps us learn about reading emotions and discovering boundaries. We learn how to compromise and adapt to keep games going. We are able to practise being scared and how to chase the monsters away. We learn about being all powerful and what works and doesn't work when there are other people's wants and needs to be taken into account.
In these past months, opportunities for this type of play have been curtailed by restrictions and lockdowns. Groups of children, collections of ages and personalities, have not had to negotiate their way through adapting to each others' needs and abilities. Younger children seeing role models, older children nurturing and looking out for little ones: these things have not happened so much. Of course some children with siblings may have had the chance to hone their skills of tolerance and getting along with others, but for many this has been a rare occurrence.
When I hear about the need for children to catch up, I imagine that some people see children as empty vessels and their teachers as 'pourers of knowledge'. The rate of filling has been affected by the pandemic so to get back on track we need to pour more quickly and for longer, like a factory production line?
I am not convinced. What I AM convinced about is that if we do see schools being open for longer days and over the holidays, then they would be a great space for catching up on social play.
Imagine the opportunities for children to play with a range of resources, with minimal intervention. Give them the chance to create together, to explore, to co-operate and negotiate.
Play helps us process our experiences and our feelings. It allows us to imagine possibilities and see the world differently. Adaptation is something we have all had to become experts at recently and play is the prime driver of our ability to do this.
Play is the way.