The Importance of Play — Part One


It’s day four of Raising Lifelong Learners – a Ten Day Series. I’m so glad you’re here catching up with me. The week kind of got away from me with a few minor illnesses and injuries, which is totally the life of a homeschooling mom of four. So, we’re catching up, and should be right back on track for the second half of the series next week.

Have you been following along? So far we’ve talked about cultivating an environment for your children that encourages them to love learning and the importance of building early literacy skills. And let me just reiterate – without a love of the written word and an environment in which kids are free to explore and have their explorations validated, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle. A love of learning begins with the environment and literacy.


Raising Lifelong Learners a Ten Day Series via Day Four

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.


Today I want to talk about play.

By play, I don’t mean video games, toys that do things for kids, or even board games. Sometimes I worry about the toys that fill the shelves of toy stores and big box stores today. When playthings come with scripts and directions, kids are merely acting out someone else’s ideas.

Something is lost… the imagination.


Raising Lifelong Learners a Ten Day Series via Day Four


Finding Worlds

Kids, especially those who are used to having their play directed, might complain, “there’s nothing to do.” They are, in a way, addicted to the computers, talking toys, and television shows that permeate our home lives today. We need to help guide our children to be resourceful and active play-ers, and then let them run with it.

There’s something to be said about letting your kids loose in the backyard or giving them a few cardboard boxes and stepping back to see what they do with the freedom.

Will the backyard become a jungle? A forest? Or a calm local park in which doll tea party picnics occur? Or, like ours recently, a LEGO version of Man vs. Wild in which Lego Bear Grylls was subjected to all sorts of trials before being summarily rescued by Lego Tony Stark?

What will become of those boxes you packed your groceries in at Aldi? Or that Amazon just delivered? A cave? A multi-level apartment building in which dolls, princesses, and animals live in harmony?

If you continue to limit the toys and electronic devices that play for them, your children will learn to play creatively. And their creativity will grow – astounding you.


Raising Lifelong Learners a Ten Day Series via Day Four


And they’ll ask for those devices less and less often.

Real play will become more fun and engaging.


Encouraging Imagination

Logan was bored the other day. Isaac was sleeping in the Ergo Carrier, Molly was with a friend, and we were at Trevor’s FLL Team meeting. And, as it was chilly and damp outside, I wasn’t going to give her the iPad until we went inside. For the moment the boys were talking strategy and working on a 4-foot by 8-foot practice table and were in an unheated garage.

I told her to explore.

She found an old, ripped net and a rock. I saw she was engaged, and turned to listen to the team so I’d know what to reinforce with Trevor before the next meeting. But Logan kept drawing all of our attention.

The rock clunked in corners and on the driveway as she tossed it and went after it. I heard her mutter and pounce. Again, and again. She crawled on the dirty, cold cement floor, and hid behind boxes. When I finally could talk to her without disturbing the team, I asked her to tell me the story of her play.

She spun a tale of lion hunting and told how the rock was a baby lion that continued to run away from its mommy. She’d been hired by the cub’s mommy as a “baby-lion-hunter” and kept recapturing it only to have it escape through the hole in the net right as she almost got back to its home… every time! But, finally, knowing that time was short and she’d have to go inside, and wanting the lion cub and its mommy to be reunited, she clasped her hand on the hole and successfully brought it home in the “nick of time.”


Raising Lifelong Learners a Ten Day Series via Day Four


Now, my kids are just as interested in screens as the next kid, but I’m hoping that by continuing to limit them and encourage {and validate} their imaginations, that I’ll have more stories like this to tell.


Keep Being Selective

When our kids are little, we parents focus intently on the characteristics of the toys and playthings we purchase for them. We want to make sure that the things we bring into the house are going to have value for them. That they will grow their minds, be safe, and teach them various skills.

But, when our kids get older and start asking for specific toys, it’s natural to step back and let them take a more active role in choosing their playthings.

Is it the right move, though?

Who is really influencing their decisions? Likely it’s a friend, a movie, or a smart advertising campaign. Right? And I’m totally guilty of allowing these outside influencers to take over the role of guiding my children’s wants. In fact, up until I finished researching the things I wanted to share in this series, I handed my kids the stack of toy catalogs that just came in the mail, telling them to start thinking about the two or three things they wanted most for Christmas.

I just threw them away.

It’s just not right. Logan and Molly have been playing happily with several cardboard boxes that they’ve turned into a mansion for their dolls for over a week. Now, they’re both coveting a dollhouse that costs over a hundred dollars – just because they saw it in the catalog. We have a dollhouse! And they play more with the boxes than they do the house.


Raising Lifelong Learners a Ten Day Series via Day Four


Admittedly, it’s harder to do this as they get older, but it’s important.

If your child really wants something, ask him or her why. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, we’ll be buying Trevor a Kindle Fire for his upcoming birthday, hopefully. Before I was sold on this idea, though, I sat down with him so he could explain to me why I should bring another device into the house, and earmark it for his sole use.

Open the dialogue and help your kids think through their wants, needs, and requests. It’ll be great for all of you.

This is a big topic, so we’ll talk more about it tomorrow. In the meantime, visit some of the other bloggers participating in the 10-Day iHomeschool Network Hopscotch. And tell me, how do YOU encourage imaginative play at home with you various aged kiddos?