Times change. Generations change. People change. Playing changes. Our children are growing up in a different world that you and I did. Their type of play is very different than what we use to do. Remember the classics like “Cops and Robbers” and “Freeze Tag?” How about building forts in the woods? I remember rushing home from school, doing my homework as quickly as I could, so I could rush back out to play with the neighborhood kids, until my mom whistled (yes, whistled, not called because phones did not exist) when it was time for dinner.
Can anyone relate to this? I bet it is safe to assume that if you are dangerously close to your forties like I am, or older, you can relate.
Play is a crucial part of development and believe it or not there are many different types of play. The purpose of this blog is to better educate you in the importance of play and to give you some good examples of play that you can do with your child.
In previous blogs I described the role of an Occupational Therapist. For those of you who may have missed it, an Occupational Therapist helps return you to your “job of living.” This job may be a mother, a wife, a brother, a golfer, a hunter, or your specific profession, etc. It is the job of the Occupational Therapist to help you live YOUR LIFE to the FULLEST. But what is a child’s job? Simple. A child has 2 jobs: 1. To Learn, and 2. To Play.
Play. A child’s job is to play. Sign me up for that job, right? Ha. Ha. So, it is important that we, as parents or caregivers, are both encouraging and facilitating age appropriate play for our children.
So, let’s dig in. The first thing we need to consider is normal development. There are appropriate play milestones for every age level. For example, it would be normal for your infant to play with a rattle and your toddler to play patty cake. You may have even heard the terms solitary play or parallel play. I would highly recommend that you check out a chart online, talk to your child’s pediatrician or Occupational Therapist for specific developmental milestones of age-appropriate play. I would like to focus on different types of play that effect a school-aged child.
Cooperative play describes the type of play where your child not only plays/interacts with other children but enjoys the activity they are involved in. This type of play is also associated with following a set of rules or guidelines. Other categories of play include, but are not limited to, expressive play, physical play and imaginary play. Expressive play involves your child completing arts and crafts or using/making music. It allows them to express their emotions. Physical play is exactly how it sounds. Running, jumping, skipping, climbing, etc. This type of play also helps a child learn rules and the importance of gracefully winning or losing. Imaginary play, is too, pretty much exactly how it sounds. It is the young girl playing mommy to her dolls or the little boy pretending to a fireman. This type of play helps evolve your child’s abstract thinking. Again, there are multiple types of play, but I wanted to highlight a few to help you recognize that play is multifaceted and maybe a little more complex than you may have imagined.
Okay, here it comes. The two words you were probably guessing would come up, but were secretly hoping I would not mention.
Yep, you guessed it. Now, the purpose of the blog is to not bash video games. I could write a whole blog on that alone (Hey! Good idea!). There are recommend time frames for the amount of screen time a child should have. The time is dependent on the age of your child. Unfortunately, video games do not provide any significant value to your child’s social, emotional, or physical development. Before you get angry at me, there is a lot of evidence-based research that backs what I just wrote.
Time to turn off the video games (and cell phones!) and bring back “old school play!”
Growing up we did not have all of the fancy toys, video games, or cell phones kids have today. We had pots and pans that turned into armor. We had kitchen strainers that helps us catch crawfish in the creek. We used sticks and branches to build forts. We roamed the streets until we found playgrounds so we could play freeze tag or so we could chase our friends because we were “it.” We made mud pies. We played cowboys and Indians. We climbed trees. We drew with chalk outside and ran in the rain just so we could jump in the puddles. We colored in coloring books, put together puzzles and did word searches. We were involved in recreation leagues and girl scouts/boy scouts.
Starting to get the point?
Yes, I get that our kids are growing up in a “different world.” I have a 10 and a 12-year-old. But it is no excuse to not let them play the same way we did. Everything I just described had something to do with the previously mentioned age appropriate play patterns. Remember? Cooperative play, imaginary play, expressive play, physical play, etc. Video games and cell phones cannot do that.
Bundle them up and get those kids outside. Join them! Teach them the “good old stuff” that we use to do when we were kids. Laugh, run, jump, and get dirty! BUT, most importantly…PLAY with those precious children! Their social, emotional, and physical development depends on it!
There is no school, like old school.
Amy Livengood, OTR/L, CEAS II