For children, play is serious learning

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

For children, play is serious learning … In fact, play is the real work of childhood." - Mister Rogers

When children play, proper, old fashioned play, they prepare – at least they used to – for the life to come as a grown up, as an adult, and it is for that reason that they want to copy the adults in their lives.

Nowadays, however, we plant them in from of television sets or games consoles and do not allow them that old fashioned kind of play.

In fact many parents are afraid to have their children do some real play which could involve making things and learning real skills in case they might hurt themselves.

In Germany there are the so-called Waldkindergaerten, the Forest-Kindergartens, where the little ones spend all day, every day, outside. They learn to use real knives (gasp, horror!) and real bow saws (even greater horror) to whittle and build things and they learn skills, including teamwork.

I do know though that the simple sight of those four to six year olds with Opinel No.6 pocket knives with real tips (not the rounded child tips) has sent parents in Britain scurrying behind the sofa.

In days gone by children learned from their parents, boys the trades of the fathers and, yes, girls learned cooking and how to look after a household and children. Very non-pc isn't it.

It does not have to be and we do not have to tell girls that they cannot and must not aspire to become smiths or carpenters or mechanics or engineers in the same way as we should not stop boys from wanting to learn how to cook and sew, for instance.

As long as any and all such learning is by the request of the child then the learning is play and child's play at that.

When I was little I learned the trade of a knife grinder and a knife maker and it came easy and with no compulsion but I also learned how to cook and how to sew. Cooking was a requirement due to some of the ways of the people and sewing comes in handy not just for clothing repair. When making knives the leather work needs sewing skills.

Play in general and of the learning kind also give children a way of learning to interact wither others, whether children or adults, as a team, even if the team is but two people.

Playing computer games and such like teaches them very little if anything of value and children thus should be encouraged again to play, by using their own imagination and by imitating their elders.

Real play is what is called for when it comes to children learning the skills of life and not some virtual reality “games” of whatever nature.

Time to get back to reality in life, our own and that of our children.

© 2012