Play is the most powerful learning tool for a child’s intellectual, social, emotional and physical development. Young children are natural explorers. They learn by trial and error as they play and experiment.
Play has several important and universal characteristics. The first is self-motivation. In other words, even if your child needs some specific help and guidance, play will spring from your child’s own interest and needs. Though parents can understand and promote the important role of play, for the child play is an end in itself, to be enjoyed for its own sake. The goal of play is to have fun, to enjoy others, to experiment and make mistakes, and to practice skills in a natural way.
Next time you go to a park together as a family, consider the different ways your multi-age children find exactly what they need for their own kind of play. Our family loves the park at Lake Parker, there are so MANY fun ways to enjoy the park – the lake, biking trails, the playground, picnic areas… everything.
As in class, we enjoy watching the animals, feeding the ducks, watching for wildlife, such as frogs and squirrels. Have your little ducklings been catching many fish??? Or have your little frogs been hopping and croaking all over the house?
Simply being outside brings complete joy to most children of all ages. A park provides your baby with sights, sounds, smells, and textures found no where else in his daily environment. It is his JOB to explore all these things fully! Just being outside on a picnic blanket with a lot of safe things to explore can give a baby a wonderful experience as he watches birds and trees overhead, or explores leaves and picnic objects while sitting, or on his belly.
For your toddler, the park is a huge science lab full of discoveries just waiting to be uncovered. Try this activity that we didn’t get to today: Walk around the park until you find a fun object, such as a rock or a feather. Pick it up and rhythmically say, “Look what I’ve found, I’ve found a rock. Look what I’ve found, I’ve found a rock.” Then kind of sing with a simple tune, “Put my rock in my bucket, humm-mm-mm.” Toddlers can have a lot of fun collecting objects in a bucket. Then dump them out on a picnic table and talk about them, letting the child lead the conversation.
Of course, your preschooler / grade schooler will surprise you with inventions and ideas you never imagined. And some may have a knack for getting other children involved. Circle games like “Ring Around the Rosie” or “Shoe Fly” or “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” are an excellent way to generate some fun social interactions. You can even use your picnic blanket like we used the parachute for the circle activity. The little ones sure loved being underneath.
Page 11 in your Sing, Play & Grow book is full of “go outside and play” ideas. Grab your picnic basket (or cooler) and bag of goodies, and enjoy being outside as a family! This is a great time of year for it (since the weather hasn’t gotten too hot yet!).