Play Their Way!

I have always preferred play to work. How come a game starts with “Play ball”? I’ve never heard that in an office. How cool it would be if our all work was play. Emerson said, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.”

The Strong Play Museum in Rochester, NY celebrates play in all forms. One weekend we invited our oldest son and his wife and our four grandchildren to go play at the play museum. Each area and exhibit showcased play – from interactive games, to a Lego castle complete with knights and maids.

Jacob (age 5) and I went to the area with colored plastic whiffle balls. The “planned” play was to roll the balls down the slope into a basket. I started the orange ball. Then I launched the blue and red ones. Jacob ran up to push the balls up hill. Then he grabbed each ball and began to throw them. “No, Jacob, we are supposed to roll them down this way,” I said and tried again to roll a few balls. Again, Jacob pushed them up and grabbed each one. I stopped and laughed at myself. Then the “ah-ha” came. This is play and there are no rules! I let Jacob play his own way.

I watched hundreds of four and five year olds and younger run, play, laugh, in their own way. My favorite areas were the community play tables. Each table sat six to eight. Many building items were stored inside plastic boxes in the table. The children could create and build with many sizes and shapes including wooden blocks, shapes, Legos, Lincoln Logs, and Tinker Toys.

I handed a young boy around 2 some colored blocks. He ignored them. My adult help wasn’t in line with his playing. I spoke with his father who is from mainland China. I handed the boy a few round Tinker Toys as he continued to place them on top of others threaded onto a green stick. This boy, like Jacob and the others were learning in their own way as they played. My job was to let them teach me how they play.

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.”

-Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers)

In what ways can you learn from your child how to play?

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