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Imaginative and creative play is important for every child. Having fun exploring and discovering their world whether indoors or outdoors is essential in developing the foundation for social, emotional, and cognitive skills.
In fact, play is a child's work.
~Dr. Donna Housman
Founder of Housman Institute and creator of begin to ECSEL
At long last we can finally step outside and play! Everyone deserves this time to play. For children who have been confined to tight social bubbles, pods, and small circles at best, or in most cases just screens, to visit with friends and family - playtime is long overdue. We need to get out to play... and play together. Although we all worry about learning loss, especially after this year, children’s socialization through summer play is more important now than ever. Anna North’s recent article for Vox, “What American Kids Need This Summer” discusses how children need to be with other children this summer, quoting Denise Pope, “‘they need to practice those really, really important social skills, communication skills, friendship-building skills,’ which are important not just for mental health and well-being, but for learning as well.”
As young children grow, they need opportunities to interact with others through play, but this year has limited these opportunities and even changed what play looks like. As summer days let us head outside, we can rediscover the important lessons that just playing can bring. For many, summer is a time with the freedom to build confidence in meeting new people, trying new things, learning new skills, exploring nature, experimenting with new ideas, being curious and creative, and heading out into the world to discover, even if that world is just the backyard. Summer play can and should also provide the opportunity to develop critical social and emotional competencies that were shut off this past year.
While summer play can offer so many new experiences for children - discovering what lives in nature, creative art projects, playing and moving to music, learning to swim, playing a sport, learning to read, experimenting with science… play can also build key foundational emotional competencies. Playing, building, creating, exploring, and learning with others helps children build self-confidence, make friends, learn how to communicate, and problem-solve, share and develop empathy, and express themselves through newfound interests. Summer play can instill important growth opportunities for children to carry forward into the rest of their lives. When they do head back to school (or go to school for the very first time), the lessons and skills they gained by engaging in different kinds of summer play will head to school with them. They will have a foundation to build upon to engage with others, feel confident in making friends and experiencing new “adventures”. Play opens children’s worlds and gives them a sense of freedom and security to discover, grow their imaginations, work together, explore the world around them, and most importantly, to just have fun - and don’t we all deserve some fun? In fact, be sure you are a part of that fun - you’ve earned it too!
Whether a teacher or a parent, here are some fun activities to engage in with young learners at school, at camp, or at home:
One of the best things about being a child is that you can play anywhere, learn anywhere, and explore and discover what is right under your own feet - everything is new, and everything helps you grow. Let’s grow together this summer and have some fun.
Play is key to helping children build important social skills. They learn to play with others, build friendships and empathy as they develop relationships, and begin to understand the experiences and feelings of others. With the guidance of parents and/or teachers as facilitators in extending their child’s imaginative play, children establish a foundation of independence. They gain the knowledge that their ideas are valued and are valuable. They can learn to work out stressful situations to a successful conclusion. All necessary in dealing with everyday challenges and stresses and more than ever in today's world.”
~Dr Donna Housman