Last month I had the great fortune to be offered a position in the Interpretation Department of our local children’s museum. My role is to facilitate the guests’ experience through gallery insight and programming designed to provide a richer experience. This role affords me an incredible opportunity to observe and interact with literally thousands of families and in my short time on the job I have witnessed something many, many times which has troubled me. The majority of grown-ups who visit our museum have forgotten how or are unwilling to play. And this, parents, is a
problem. We need to re-learn and allow ourselves to play with our children.
As the parents of toddlers especially, the custodians of sponges with limbs, it is not enough to merely supervise. We need to be a part of their play. Remember, our kids are getting information from every and any example they see. I don’t know about you, but I want to be my toddler’s primary teacher. And even though I’m sure we’re all familiar with the well-known fact that all animals learn through play, what I’ve observed is that many parents seem to feel that play is just something that children do spontaneously and innately, as opposed to something they have to learn. How many times have we told our children, “Go play!”while we stand idly by? When we need to, we’ll jump in to teach them about sharing or cleaning up or tying their shoes, but we’ve just missed a giant opportunity. Children are most receptive to lessons when they don’t realize they’re learning and we need to capitalize on that. So why is it so hard for us to play?
I think the biggest issue is that we are often bound by the notion that play is for children, and that the act of play will somehow make us seem immature or foolish. Well, I think we need to get over ourselves and set our egos aside. In this new year, let’s resolve to get sillier, messier, louder and all the other things we know are munchkins are good at. It will be great for our kids and we might just have a lot of fun in the process.
Happy New Year! Play on!