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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Playscape Play Mats - How Do You Play?

"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning.  Play is really the work of childhood." Mr. Rogers
How often had you said to your children or had it said to you when you were a child, "I am busy. Just go play."?  As a preschool teacher, I am trained to know that play is learning.
For example, in the block area, when a child is building with blocks, he or she is learning shapes and balance and scale and spatial thinking and cause & effect and symmetry.  Or if a child is creating with playdough, they are working those small finger muscles that will one day hold a pencil.  Those little muscle need to be strong enough to hold up and control a pencil when writing.  So play is much more than meets the eye.
When I created my playscapes or play mats on etsy, I had all that knowledge of 20+ years in the early childhood field swirling round in my brain.  I needed a project, but I wanted it to have a purpose.  We often in the early childhood field about play with a purpose.
It's easy (trust me, I know!) to put a child in front of a screen to watch that favorite show, but where's the imagination?  Where's the creativity?  I remember playing with my little toys for hours, making up stories, going on imaginary adventures, getting lost in play.
I am glad that I grew up in a time before internet and video games and ipads.  We were allowed to watch very little tv, so we were on our own to entertain ourselves.  I set up entire scenes for the characters in my imaginary adventure to explore, sometimes get stuck in quicksand, and find treasure.
So how do you play with playscapes?  Trust me, if you put one out with a couple toy animals, the kids would know what to do.  They could work in the garden.  They could find bugs.  They could go for a swim in the lake or stream.  They could hide in the hollow log or find treasure in the cave.
Their little imaginations will take over.  A Playscape is a landscape for the imaginations.  "Imagination is more important than knowledge." - Albert Einstein
I think that we need to have less screen time and more imagination time.  Some children will immediately start playing.  Some children may need to have play modeled for them.  Don't worry about looking silly with kids - they love silly.
When I post photos to Etsy of my work, I am limited to 5 pictures.  I try to take 2 pictures of just the playscape then 3 staged for play.
Easter is coming, so I staged a Easter scene with flowers and chicks and eggs.  That's another thing I love to do. I like to secretly stage scenes for play scenes. So when that child wakes up from nap for example, they walk right into a scene that just beckons them to come play.
Or I rearrange their toys when they are napping or doing something else.  They see it, a lightbulb goes off, and their brain thinks, "something is different. let's find out what it is."
So how do you play?  What do you do to engage your children in play?  Play has a purpose.  Play is learning.  Play is important.

Have a fun and playful day!

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