Play is an act of imagining. When children go outside to play—running, skipping,jumping—what is activated is a different form of knowing. It is a way of believing that allows children, if they wish, to run as fast as the wind or jump as high as the clouds, becoming, in an instant, a part of the exuberance and playfulness of nature itself.
It was a simpler time back in the day when I was growing up. My brother and I would be booted out of the house on the weekends—not allowed to spend the days watching TV. My mother would say, “It’s a beautiful day, go run amok.” Around lunchtime we would surface with grass stains on our knees and throw ourselves in front of the box fan to cool off. Then off we would go again, climbing trees and exploring the neighborhood on our bikes. It seemed to be sort of an initiation that every neighborhood kid would fall out of our tree house at least once. Sometimes it was while walking the ‘death branch’ where we didn’t have another branch to hold onto. I never fell but was privy to many a skinned elbow, broken arm, or someone gasping while on her back with the wind knocked out of her. Good times! We were seldom supervised and never did the families sue each other. Sometimes I wonder how any of us survived into adulthood, but we did. Today’s children have choices of wonderful summer camps but should have time allowed for running barefoot in their back yards having fun, simply for its own sake. This type of play is open ended and entirely hands-on and builds creativity.
Summertime is also a wonderful opportune time for parents to play with their children. This play should be spontaneous and the hands-on element can come through open-ended reusable materials such as fabric, ribbons, buttons, plastic caps, straws, toothpicks, washers,wire, wood, mat board, foam, packing peanuts, bubble wrap, etc. Many of these supplies can be gathered by a family over time and kept in plastic bins with covers. Many local businesses have supplies they can no longer use and it can be quite fun to search for these things with your children.
Interestingly enough the benefits your children receive from the hands-on play process is true for adults too and it creates wonderful times of togetherness which has been coined, “quality time”
Christina Miller is the founder and president of Millhopper Montessori School, LLC, celebrating 35 years. The school is located at 8505 NW 39th Avenue. You may contact her at [email protected]