Play At Your Own Risk!

Dinos Bite Sign

This week, Joey Razzano from our marketing team brings us a fun guest post about the importance of learning through play.

I have been making a conscious effort to reduce my carbon footprint this year and part of that has been taking public transportation to work. Along the way, I meander the streets, checking out different houses and seeing gardens growing or checking the prices of houses for sale in my neighborhood. It’s a great transition period between work and home to just think about stuff and get some exercise at the same time. Last week I was delighted to come across a small corner where I observed these signs: “Play at your own risk”and “Dinos Bite!” And in the dirt were the vestiges of a dinosaur battle that had taken place earlier in the week.

Dino Battle Site

How appropriate that I should be on my way to work at a company whose mission it is to provide educational opportunities for children. Many people think of education as books and classroom assignments, but playing is as much a part of the process as formal instruction.

Meg Davis, Managing Senior Editor in the Education Department at KinderCare, has this to say about play:

“In early childhood education, we talk about architect Simon Nicholson’s ‘theory of loose parts’ as it relates to children’s play. ‘Loose parts’ are materials that can be moved around, combined, redesigned, lined up, taken apart, and put back together in different ways. They are materials with no specific sets of instructions.

Loose parts are beneficial to children’s play because they encourage open-ended learning and creativity, and they develop more skills and competence than most plastic toys. And where is the best ‘loose-parts’ classroom? Outdoors in natural environments, because you can’t get much looser than nature!”

I’m a firm believer in the power of play and the lessons it teaches. Sometimes we get comments from parents that say “It just looks like they are all playing to me. Where’s the education?” I’m paraphrasing, of course. But it’s just one more reason why this particular little patch of dirt with plastic dinosaurs brought a smile to my face. The natural world offers children more than beautiful spaces to play. Research has shown that when children have frequent and varied opportunities for play outdoors, they are more self-disciplined and focused. They are more confident, creative, and cooperative. They are better problem-solvers, more physically fit, and happier. Education is so much more than textbooks and this was a great reminder.  Play is the “work” of children. It is the vehicle through which they learn, and it is what sets the stage for all future learning.

What a great reminder that there is so much more to education for well-rounded individuals. It all starts here, in a patch of dirt on the corner of a sidewalk, using little more than toys and some imagination.

Play on!

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