Time to Play
I love to watch my husband play with our kiddos. He gets down on their level and plays. He dresses up, he talks “in character”, he has great tea parties, he builds the best rockets, he gets the girls thinking and problem solving, and he plays a mean game of Memory. Now don’t get me wrong, I play with my kiddos, but it’s different. You would think it would be the other way around. I mean, I come from an early education background-I used to teach preschool-aged children. I was a center director. My own philosophy on early care and education is based on play. But it’s different. When I am playing with my children, I have a hundred things going through my head: “I need to clear out some of these toys”, “What should I make for supper”, “I need to change out the laundry”, “We need to clean up the playroom”. It takes a lot of effort for me to stop and just engage and play with the children. I just don’t allow myself the time to do it.
The more I think about it, I realize this is what was happening when I was teaching, too. I had so much going through my head that I didn’t take the time to sit down and play with the children in my class. I was thinking about what new toys and materials I should bring in next, prepping the art project, changing up the bulletin boards, thinking about the lesson we were going to work on, talking to the assistant teacher about what was going to happen next, checking the schedule, and constantly putting out fires. I was doing the wrong things at the wrong times. I never allowed myself time to sit down and engage with the children. My classroom was set up just like I wanted it. I rearranged and brought in new materials to keep the children engaged and interested. It had nice flow and many different interest areas so children could play in small groups. I knew about ERS and made sure I had all the materials on the “list”. My display was current and children could interact with it. I planned activities and projects that the children were interested in. There was just one piece missing – ME! Now, I played with the children in my class, but I didn’t give them the full attention they deserved. I was allowing myself to be too busy – I bounced around from group to group asking what they were doing, but I didn’t sit down and engage with them. I was missing a key component to providing quality care! As a child care provider, we need to stop. We need to allow ourselves time to sit down and interact with the children in our care. While we are playing we can ask children questions to get them thinking, we can bring in new materials to enhance their play, we can pose problems and work on problem solving skills, we can model turn taking and sharing, we can introduce new concepts and talk about logical relationships, expand children’s vocabulary – there is so much you can do when you allow yourself time to have some fun! We need to do the right things at the right time. Your unstructured free play and outside time is the right time to engage and play with your children. Put away the “other stuff” for a while and allow yourself to play. Children learn through play – we need to be there to guide, enhance, and be part of that great experience.
We know that Bright & Early ND keeps you busy. All of that “other stuff” needs to get done, but it needs to get done at the right times. Don’t allow yourself to become so busy that you forget the main reason why you are participating in the program – the children- to provide quality child care for children so they have what they need to succeed. To do that, you need to have meaningful, engaging interactions with children. Allow yourself time in your day to sit down and engage with your children. If my husband can do it without even knowing it, we should be able to allow ourselves time in our day to sit down, have fun, and play! As a matter of fact, I’m giving myself permission to go do that right now, and I hope you do, too!
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