Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: New Year's Eve / Cybils Edition
A New Direction: The Joy of Learning

On the Importance of Creative Play

My daughter is just finishing up two weeks of school vacation. At the start of the break, her Kindergarten teacher emailed:

"As you nestle down at home and go through your child's Friday Bag you will find that I did not pass out the January Homework packet yet. That is my gift to you and your child. This is your child's first Winter Break. Please fill it with fond family memories. I encourage you all to pull out the board games, dust off the puzzles, bundle up and go for a hike, have a dance party in the kitchen while cooking, and etc. Enjoy this time together."

I appreciated this directive, and we tried to follow it, in our own way. My daughter did have a few playdates over the break (for which we were grateful), and we had a few gatherings with other families. But we spent a lot of time at home, too, which is something that we all wanted. Here are a few of the things that I remember her doing over the break (often with participation from an adult, but with her directing):

  • Solved the first few levels of Gravity Maze
  • RecoveryRoomBuilt a medical clinic for stuffed animals (this is ongoing as I write - the line of waiting animals stretches out into the hall. The recovery room is shown to the right.)
  • Wrote a chapter book, and illustrated another that a friend wrote
  • Assembled and painted a house from Modern Art-Chitecture Kit
  • Made various little self-directed craft projects
  • Spent time coloring
  • Spent time doing puzzles
  • Had many rounds of playing "school", with herself as the teacher at home, and her friend as the teacher at her house.
  • Performed edible chemistry experiments (she was ridiculously excited about this, and soon branched out from the listed experiments to her own)
  • Decorated Christmas cookies
  • Laid out floor plans for imagined houses (with peel and stick furniture)
  • FortBuilt a fort for select stuffed animals using Magna-Tiles
  • Constructed things of her own design with Legos
  • Dabbled with spray chalk in the back yard (not that effective in wet weather)
  • Played spy by going on missions with digital camera to photograph things around the house. Also took videos of herself singing made up songs.

Those are just the things that I can recall off the top of my head. I'm sure her babysitter could name many more (I did not have the full 2 weeks off). But you get the idea.

None of this is to say that I think that my own child is especially creative in her play. My point in sharing this list is that five year olds thrive on creative play. They want it and need it and will pester you until they can get it. They will want you to play with them, or to find them a friend, but they will play on their own if they have to.

Most of these activities are in some way or other educational. They build imagination, fine motor skills, problem-solving ability, and more. I feel grateful that my daughter had the time for all of this play, and I hope we can continue to build in plenty of these types of activities as school re-commences. [Though I must admit that I finding playing school with her VERY challenging - she is unbelievably strict, and it's not even a little bit fun.]

Here are the things that we did to facilitate this creative play / learning:

  • Provided unstructured time (in some cases by being too busy to play with her directly, as when we were preparing to have friends over one night)
  • Set limits on screen time (though I feel we could improve here)
  • Chose Christmas gifts with open-ended play in mind, and had friends who did so, too (Classic Lego set, vs. particular kits, Magna-Tiles, etc.) 

And here's my real bottom line: My daughter lights up when she's writing, or making things up, or acting things out, or building things. She does not (usually) light up when she is doing worksheets, or working with a school-recommended app that is basically a series of repetitive quizzes. My mission, I have been realizing of late, is to do what I can to facilitate and maximize her joy from learning, and mitigate influences that dampen that joy. This mission, I believe, is going to change the direction of the blog a fair bit. More on that to follow. Wishing you all a joyful and creative 2016!

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post contains affiliate links.