The other day I was dropping my kids off at school when I was told that siblings were not allowed on the playground. Though I could understand the concern the comment made me angry, sad and frustrated to think that we have created so many “rules” around the idea of play. After all, structured approaches inhibit both learning and personal development.
I love the idea of PLAY and if that’s how children learn best I, like most parents, want my children to do as much of it as possible. But, I’ve realized that sometimes even what we think of play is not really FUN; even for me as an adult.
The element of fun became important to me as I watched the children in my family gravitate towards SpongeBob. I know; I read an article that discussed the idea of banning Spongebob Squarepants in certain countries; so I have been warned. But, I wanted to find out just what was so compelling to the children.
Maybe I’m crazy. But, I like Spongebob. Perhaps, like some friends say the creators must have been out of their minds. And honestly, maybe they are right because I can’t really wrap my head around how you would come up with an idea like Spongebob. But, nevertheless the humor is genuinely honest and somehow childlike.
But, it’s a fact – kids learn better when they’re having fun. Actually, we as adults do too. If you want to test out this theory, all you need to do is survey a group of folks who have just sat through a two hour PowerPoint meeting. How much of the presentation do you think they absorbed? In probing, I’m sure you’ll hear more about “death by PowerPoint” than tangible lessons from the meeting. The complaints you’d hear from adults are the same complaints as the ones you’d hear from kids who are expected to sit quietly in class and absorb the lesson plan. This is because be nature people are learning animals. Birds fly; fish swim; humans think and learn.
The reality is that children find learning fun right from the start; their excitement to learn new things is too often stymied by rules, restrictions, and inadvertent words of discouragement, even from well intentioned parents. Clearly, children are born explorers and optimists that’s human nature.
As parents we need to foster this natural curiosity rather than shutting it down. If a toy gains their interest, find games to play using that toy rather than chosing a toy for them. And, a toy is a toy; No matter what age you are.
Physical exercise has important cognitive benefits in its own right. But even physical education classes don’t deliver the same benefits as recess. To reap all the benefits of play, a play break must be truly playful.
Therefore, we do not need to motivate children into learning by wheedling, bribing, or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do – and all we need to do – is to give children as much help and guidance as they need and ask for, listen respectfully when they feel like talking, and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest.
If left alone, children will know instinctively know what method is best for them. Caring and observant parents soon learn that it is safe and appropriate to trust this knowledge.
Today, in the Information Age, with all the resources found on the internet, in catalogs, and in other media, there is always an alternative resource or method to be found. There is always an alternative way of learning whatever needs to be learned.
Live and Learn. We all Do.
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