When I was in college, I took a semester long class called “The Importance of Play”. Before taking this class, I had never really thought about the importance of play at all. This course ended up teaching me life long lessons. The importance of play has stuck with me through my different jobs as a Nanny, a teacher, and of course as being a Mom to many children. When I was young, children would be found playing outside, making up games, using their creativity constantly. In some ways, life was much easier 40 years ago. Streets were safe for kids to play on until the sun went down. TVs had only a few channels to choose from, with very little programming that appealed to children. There was no Internet, no World Wide Web, no social media, and no cell phones. Life was so easy back then. Our children today have too many distractions. They have grown up needing something concrete “to do” every second of the day. In todays busy world, parents might not realize how important open-ended play time is for their children. Creative play helps children develop socially, emotionally and even physically.
Michael Patte wrote a fascinating article titled, The Decline of Unstructured Play and the Rise of Backseat Children and I really enjoyed reading it. This article provided me with many ideas on how to incorporate more unstructured play time in our house. This topic of unstructured play is really very pertinent in 2015. Our children rely too much on structured activities and are not encouraged to explore and play on their own. Play without specific goals or objectives encourages creativity. Unstructured play periods develop a child’s self-esteem, self-discipline and improves their self reliance.
In my house you will typically find most of us in the kitchen. Cooking is an amazing way to let your children express themselves. When we first brainstorm a recipe we use our creativity to come up with something to make. Once we start cooking, the kids use motor skills to actually build the recipe from basic ingredients to the ultimate masterpiece. And finally, the finished product can be enjoyed with all five senses, building up a child’s confidence in their skills, and inviting them to explore new foods that they have just created.
While cooking, children and adults are both learning through play. There is so much to learn and explore when you ask your kids to join you in the kitchen. Since my kids are older, they like to follow directions and create a concrete recipe. But with younger children there are endless possibilities. Make a band out of your Tupperware and spoons. Fill a big pot with water and let your toddler measure and pour with small containers. Summer is perfect for water play, spread out some towels, and let your kids wear a swimsuit. Find a large bowl and fill it with rice and give your child some spoons and let them “cook” you some dinner. Combine vinegar and baking soda and see what happens! These are just a few ideas, the activities you can do with your kids in the kitchen are endless. Older children can learn and play in the kitchen as well. Recipes will require your children to follow the rules, learn fractions, use all their senses, determine what temperature to use, learn some chemistry, collaborate together and divide the responsibilities, learn how to use kitchen tools properly, and attempt to create an appealing presentation at the end.
Cooking is play for children if you allow it be. Sure it is much easier to grab some fast food or a cheap pizza on your way home. But cooking, exploring, and learning about food lasts a lifetime.
If you have a free minute, watch this video , there are some really cute ideas for easy and creative ways that kids can play! I have already signed up online to play with my kids, now it is your turn. Please Take the Play Pledge.
Please take some time today, get your kids to unplug, and encourage them to play and explore, and watch the magic happen.
Make play an important part of your child’s day every day.
This post was sponsored by the Toy Industry Association and the Genius of Play Campaign. They asked me to share with you, how our family incorporates play into our daily lives, especially in the kitchen.
What is your children’s favorite way to enjoy unstructured playtime? Share your ideas in the comments.