“When the fun goes out of play, most often so does the learning. “ – Joanne E. Oppenheim (20th century), U.S. educator, author. Kids and Play, ch. 1 (1984)
Some people think of play as the opposite of work. To many, play is often associated with laziness, underachievement and frivolousness. This is probably why we, as parents, often jam-pack our children with activities, in and out of school, so that they could spend their time more ‘wisely’.
But it is important to cultivate an environment for children to indulge in free, exploratory play. Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. Children learn to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-confidence. With the freedom to be curious and to explore possibilities, children are able to discover their own areas of interest, and be engaged fully in the passions they wish to pursue. Above all, play is a simple joy that is a cherished part of childhood.
Very often, however, constraints may be placed by parents who are over overanxious about their children’s safety, or have misconceptions about what play means. Such restrictions may deprive the children of their opportunity to develop their imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities through fun.
How adults can encourage play
Keep things simple. Most children do not need a bunch of fancy gadgets to have fun. The simplest items offer the most room for imagination. Even a box or a spoon can become something exciting for your child with the right encouragement.
Give your child license to think outside the box. Don’t let him or her feel obligated to play with toys or other objects only the way they are intended. Let your child come up with new uses for things. For instance, a doll can "help" bake cookies with you, a chair with a blanket over it can serve as a secret fort. The sky is the limit when it comes to your child’s imagination.
Be enthusiastic about your child’s ideas when it comes to play. When your child feels new approaches are well-received, he or she will feel safe to come up with more ideas and you will find his or her confidence will grow in the process.
Help your child play act out favourite stories, movies or other scenarios. Don’t feel obligated to stick to the story line. Try adapting new approaches or "What If" scenarios to see what might happen in different circumstances. You can also add puppets or other props to take things to another level.
Let your child use play time as an opportunity to create something new. Keep a crafts box handy with things like paper, felt, glue, crayons, play dough and other items he or she can use to make cards, holiday decorations or other props you can proudly display around your house.
Play is an integral part of all our art “lessons” at The Little Arts Academy (LAA). Role-playing as fairies on a picnic to learn to dance en pointe, creating their own versions of Shakespeare in theatre, creating objects of fantasy and imagination in visual arts, using paper plate drums to make music…. the sky’s the limit for each child to realise his or her vision through play and experimentation. As a school that is dedicated to placing our students at the heart of what we do, we believe that such encouragement helps children grow in confidence and self-esteem. This is important as only then will they find the courage to realise their dreams.
Dedicated to a student-centred education in the Arts that recognises the unique qualities of each child, The Little Arts Academy (LAA), supported by The Business Times Budding Artists Fund (BTBAF), opened in November 2008 and is specially designed to support the LAA’s vibrant and modular multidisciplinary curriculum covering music, dance, theatre, multimedia, culinary arts and visual arts. The LAA has served 700 students since its inception, where an overwhelming majority are BT BAF beneficiaries. Of these, three of our ballet girls have received distinctions in the Royal Academy of Dance examinations for Grade 1 with less than 2 year’s training and one of our visual arts students was awarded the Highly Commended Award, Junior Section, for the UOB Painting of the Year competition in 2009.
LAA offers The Art of Play programme, a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary course that provides fundamental training in four core art genres for children aged 5 to 12 years of age through fun and play. For more information about the courses offered by LAA, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org