Friday, April 20, 2007

The Value of Play and Discovery


What pictures come into your mind when you remember your childhood? For me, I remember waking up to the sound of birds singing in the summer. And then my friends and I would play outside all day, only stopping into the house for meals or a quick check-in with Mom. The only rule we had was, "Just make sure you come home when the streetlights come on." We’d ride our bikes all over the neighborhood, go across the street to play at the park and elementary school, and collect worms and bugs and other creepy stuff. My sister and I would take our bamboo fishing poles to the river with a can of corn to catch carp. It was an idyllic time.

In the winter, we’d head out at the first sign of a snowfall. We’d build forts and snowmen, and make snow angels. We’d gather our sleds and head to the nearest hill. We’d put on our skates and play hockey in the street. Even in the winter, we were outdoors much of the time. I rarely remember sitting inside glued to the television, and we certainly didn’t play video games.

Today’s children are missing out on all that. Sure, they’ve got their soccer teams and organized sports, but what children are often missing out on is just unstructured time to explore and discover. According to Rae Pica, author of A Running Start: How Play, Physical Activity and Free Time Create a Successful Child, "Today, we have considerable research proving that . . . movement, play, and physical activity contribute to brain and intellectual development." Too often, she contends, we’re so focused on "achievement" and "competition" that we’re not allowing our children just to have their childhoods. We buy them the most high-tech gadgets and hurry them from one class to another, but "old-fashioned play and physical experiences offer the best opportunities for brain development"—NOT "the latest gadgets and gear."

In A Running Start, Rae Pica, an internationally recognized educational consultant in early childhood and movement education, shares her techniques for raising children "with the right balance of free play and structured activity." Topics include:

Keeping It Real: How Kids Really Learn
Ready or Not, Here Come Organized Sports
Helping Your Child Master Movement
The Real Standards for "Smart"
Is Your Child Playing Enough at School?
Finding the Right Organized Activity Program
You’ve Gotta Have Heart: Why Compassion Matters More Than Competition
Finding Creatures in the Clouds: The Value of Downtime
Getting Back on Track: Family First

I especially like how A Running Start is sprinkled with "Play & Learn Activities" that provide some great ideas for parents to bring fun and play back into their homes and yards. As Pica reminds us, "The family that plays together stays together." So, come on, grab those video controllers out of your kids’ hands and grab a butterfly net! Turn off the TV and head out to the stream to look for tadpoles! These are the memories that your children—and you—will cherish forever.

1 comment:

  1. You really "got" my message, Susan! Thanks so much for blogging about A Running Start. Your last paragraph is especially appropriate, as this is TV-Turnoff Week. As I like to say, "Turn off the TV and turn on to physical activity!"

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