Through play, children develop into adults. That’s just the way it works. Children develop all of the important skills of life through play. Education gives them information, play is the way they apply that information to life.
Play is not just physical, and the purpose of play is not just pleasure, although play can be both physical and pleasurable. An active play life for a child includes the testing of and enhancement of his physical abilities (learning to climb, run, jump, etc.).
Play also includes learning about human interactions and relationships. The child learns such important life skills as communication, negotiation, and compromise when he is playing a game with other children.
Most friendships begin with play for children and even for adults. Think about how your own friendships develop — mutual interest and mutual pleasure (play) is key to the friendship growing and developing. The same is true for children.
And play stokes the imagination and fosters creativity — coloring in a color book or cutting out shapes, drawing pictures, all of these things bring the child’s natural creative ability into focus for him.
Play can be serious business for children, although they would never classify it as “serious.” My six-year-old son told me that he didn’t want to go visit the child of a friend of mine because, “he doesn’t know how to play fair.” Children have their own set of standards that are mostly a mystery to adults, but there IS a system in place that matures through play into a set of adult standards.
An adult can watch children at play and simply miss all of the important “stuff” that is taking place between the children. The kids are determining a “pecking order,” establishing boundaries, and developing their physical abilities as well as their creativity and their imaginations. And you thought they were just playing! Play IS the work of childhood.