Family by Family

We want to see all families thrive not just survive

The power of play

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

one of the family by family sharing kids at the playground

Before joining TACSI I was a junior primary teacher. For many years I tried to spread the word to anyone who’d listen about the importance of play for children’s development and wellbeing.To be honest I’m not sure if I’ve been too successful. Some realise it’s value for little kids but as soon as children hit school learning to read and write (formally) becomes the overwhelming priority. In fact, learning these skills, along with skills in numeracy, will dominate a child’s day at school five days a week for 12 or so years. And it has to if you want them to do well in NAPLAN and a whole range of other testing. I’m not saying these skills aren’t important, they are, but I believe these skills only make up a small part of what children need to become a happy and healthy, involved member of their community.

Since starting at Family by Family and working more directly with parents as well as kids, I’m getting a sense of what is blocking the paths to being happy, healthy and connected within a community. Families are stressed and many of the stressors seem to be centered around:

  • isolation
  • strained family relationships
  • concern over children’s behaviour

More so than ever I can see the value of play for both kids and adults, especially when it has the power to positively impact on the stressors listed above. And it does so for the following reasons:

  1. Play brings people together. Think of how many people at sporting clubs or hobby groups connect over a common interest, regardless of their differences.
  2. Play can strengthen relationships. It gives families a chance to be there for one another, build trust and diffuse anger. Play can also create a safe environment to work through past troubles.
  3. Play gives kids something to do and it’s what they should be doing naturally. Often children’s bad behaviour comes from boredom or not being able to use their energy constructively.
  4. Play is fun and it’s ok to have fun, even if you’re an adult!

So whilst I always knew play was vital for children and their families maybe my approach to spreading the word wasn’t quite right. I thought I had to teach families how to play because they didn’t know how. And while I’m sure everyone could benefit from trying out some new ideas, I’ve realised many families actually do play very well. What they do need help with is to learn to make it a priority. We all need to realise that it’s ok to play and that it’s just as important as learning to read and write. We also need to know that the more time and effort families invest in playing the better the outcomes for their family will be.

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