Play is Reconstructing the World
Through “playing” with concepts and observations of their environment, children internalize and come to have a deeper understanding of what they experience. Through dramatic play that involves imagined scenarios, spontaneous “scripts,” and interactions with or without partners, children explore what they see, hear and observe. Children also recreate their experiences through: storytelling and writing, block building, painting, and body movement, such as is explored in Rhythms and free play in the Block Yards.
Five IVs recently recreated a store with four checkout counters. When the fifth child, who was overseeing the work of the cashiers, wanted to be a part of the checkout process, the children approached a teacher with the dilemma. She asked if they had ever noticed a manager at work in a grocery store, and one of the children did recall a manager refilling the money in a cash register. This provided the “manager” with an integral task in the play, while also integrating the real world observations of the children. The children’s play was flexible enough to allow for changes while maintaining their “characters.”
“Free time for play is better than no or little play, but it is not enough. For example, social pretend play is an excellent means for exercising and building up the executive functions of working memory (children must hold their own role and those of others in mind), inhibitory control (children must inhibit acting out of character), and cognitive flexibility (children must flexibly adjust to unexpected twists and turns in the evolving plot). But social pretend play doesn't have much value if children are free to abandon a play scenario after a few moments or are not held accountable for staying within their chosen role. And play needs to be facilitated by adults who are trained in observing children and in understanding how play contributes to children's mastery of concepts and skills."
Valentine, Vikki (expert quoted: Diamond, Adele). “Q&A: The Best Kind of Play for Kids.” National Public Radio. 27 February 2008. 29 February 2008 <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=76838288>.