Kids grow up fast, but you already know that. Parents of little children blink and the baby goes from cooing to college in what seems a millisecond. It is wonderful and terrifying at the same time. Parents are challenged over and over again by people who have been there and done that, to “hold it all dear, don’t miss it, seize the day, because it passes too quickly”. It is all good advice, but how do you do that?
With the advent of the projection and wide-screen panel TVs, it isn’t much of a stretch to want your basement to be transformed into a theatre room.
Parents are so busy in the day to day; getting kids here and there, making sure their homework is completed and finding their shoes before walking out the door that the challenge is either left unmet or at the very least, they miss the little things.
The child becomes pre-occupied with play and moms and dads miss that, because it is a chance for them to wind down from the busy-ness of parenting. But, watching kids play is one of those areas where parents can seize the day, holding the whimsy dear.
Playing house is an activity that kids love. Playing “grown up” is fun to them. All that craziness that surrounds a parent’s day is fascinating to the child. Kids often mimic the mundane tasks that parents perform, like sweeping the floor, washing the windows, and cooking in their little play kitchen. A couple of things are taking place when you observe the kids playing house. They are copying what they’ve seen, and they are learning. The late Fred Rogers, of the acclaimed children’s television show, Mr. Rogers Neighbourhood, had this to say about child’s play.
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is the work of childhood.”
There are a number of things that your child is learning when he or she plays house, and they are all characteristics that parents want their kids to learn in life.
1. Kids learn to trouble shoot problems, especially if they are playing with a sibling or friend. Kids come up with all sorts of scenarios when they are playing and create problems that need answers. Guess what? They fix those problems. Sure, they are fixing made-up difficulties, but coming up with solutions to those pretend problems is preparing them to trouble shoot the real ones they will face in the future.
2. Finding solutions to pretend problems promotes self-confidence. After all, how do you feel as a parent when you tackle a troubling problem? Besides, when kids pretend, they are all across the board on who they are, what they’ll become, where they’ll travel. Kids invent the most marvelous adventures through imaginative play. They become whomever and whatever they want to be, and that inspires confidence.
3. Language skills are improved at playtime. Children talk. It may appear as if they are babbling on to themselves, but they are copying speech. They follow by example, by the way, and copy how you speak to one another, to friends and your neighbors. Kids answer the phone, the door and pretend to make meals for visitors, while they continue to prattle. It really is quite fun for them, and for parents who watch on quietly. Often if a parent attempts to enter into the pretend play-it will come to an abrupt end. Somehow, it drags the kids back into the real world, and out of the fleeting whimsy associated with childhood.
4. Kids learn to be responsible. They pretend mop, cut grass, cook etc. Parents hope that they will catch on to what it really means to be dependable, to make their beds everyday, to show up on time, and to study hard. Playing is a first step to those more grown up responsibilities.
If, “play is the serious work of childhood”, then parents should embrace the idea and design an area that is specifically for its purpose. An inspirational space will foster and encourage a child to explore pretending. Then sit back and watch the whimsy happen.