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Play: A Dynamic Time of Discovery, Creativity and Self-Awareness

Play is the vehicle through which children not only learn best, but also develop key parts of their brains.  Play is necessary for future academic and social success. The benefits of play are manifold, and because we live in a society that has begun to mistrust the worthiness of this “activity,” it is necessary to re-examine its value and the role it plays at Anneliese Schools.

Play is not a “recreational” activity for children, it is learning in the most literal sense. Different play experiences stimulate different cognitive functions, and build the necessary components for social intelligence.  Regardless of the play activity, it is important for parents to understand that engaging in a variety of play activities makes a child’s brain tick.  Play makes children think, grow and learn.

We view play as the arena in which discovery, self-initiation, self-regulation, creativity and self-awareness are encountered.  In self-initiated play, such as in the garden, children construct their own realities.  This requires great mental work; they must “think” of their own rules, animate their objects or “characters”, communicate effectively with others.  It requires that they plan or initiate a purpose of the game or activity and resolve any shortcomings or deficiencies the play activity might have.  And they do all of this by drawing on their analytical, linguistic, kinesthetic and visual intelligences.  During group play, children begin to use cooperative, “collective” thinking to create systems, plans, stories, institutions and other complex and impressive inventions.  It’s a process not unlike two engineers trying to figure out the physics of a bridge, or politicians establishing laws.  

Because play is so meaningful and real to young pre-school and kindergarten aged children, they are intrinsically motivated to learn new things, to learn to cooperate with one another, and to be part of a group—if the learning environment is play-based.  This sets up optimal conditions for the skilled teacher to introduce a concept or skill, such as counting and classifying. 

With many opportunities for constructive as well as free play, both in the classroom and on the playground, children develop positive feelings about themselves, school, and about learning itself. In turn, their self-confidence and self-awareness blooms, and this is a key component to future academic success. Because there are no mistakes in play, only opportunities for growth, children are more likely to be innovative and take risks.  A self-confident, physically strong, curious and joyful child is more prepared for higher education than a child who has been through rigorous academic readiness programs.

Another notable benefit of play is that it stimulates and fosters imaginative thinking, the very foundation upon which children build their higher thinking skills and deepen their investigation of the social and natural world.  Imaginative thinking can take place during water play, where bridges, rivers and ships are built; people are organized and problems are created and resolved; or in fantasy play, where children must create scripts and narratives, adopt different points of view and construct imaginary objects and people.  These exercises are all building blocks for higher-level writing and reading.

Your child is most happy when playing.  A happy child is motivated to learn new things and to embrace the wonders of life.  At Anneliese Schools, we set up an optimal learning environment for children to explore their interests and to learn new things in a meaningful way.  Particularly in the younger child, play is an indispensable part of the child’s cognitive and social intelligence.  Thus, we view play as part of our academic program.