November 25, 2011

My Connections to Play

Quotes that Summarize My Play Experiences:
"Those who play rarely become brittle in the face of stress or lose the healing capacity for humor."

~Stuart Brown, MD
Contemporary American Psychiatrist

"Play, while it cannot change the external realities of children’s lives, can be a vehicle for children to
explore and enjoy their differences and similarities and to create, even for a brief time, a more just world where everyone is an equal and valued participant."

~Patricia G. Ramsey
Contemporary American Educational Psychologist
Both quotes found at:
Some favorite childhood toys:
My mom always said I was an early reader. I don't attribute it to being "forced" to learn how to read, but by having play experiences that encouraged it. The Teddy Ruxpin had a cassette player in the back that would read stories aloud. The bear would also move its head, eyes, and mouth.

Mega bloks were also a childhood favorite. I grew up with 4 sisters and we had numerous colors, sizes, and shapes of these blocks. It was always fun to create a princess castle or fort. We would also use them in pretend play to build a hairbrush to play salon. I remember my mom getting right into the play action with us as well. She never told us that it wasn't okay to use our imaginations.
The Strawberry Shortcake ragdoll was one of my most prized possessions growing up. I am sure in my play experiences that I was a "Mommy" to her and she became a baby that I took care of when I was three to four years of age. My mother tells me I didn't like to leave the house without her. This experience was partly because I would copy my mom and what I saw her do in the house while she took care of my sisters and I. 

My Play Experiences Were Supported By:
My parents: They always encouraged my sisters and I to play outside, with each other, and with friends. We engaged in various activities - pretend play such as house, sports like softball, kickball, hide and seek, tag, and other games. 
My grandparents: Grandma frequently took my sisters and I to playgrounds and story-telling and sing-alongs at the library. My DziaDziu or Grandpa always made it a point to play with us at his house - on the swing set, in the yard, helping us learn to ride bikes, and playing with our Powerwheels cars. I always remember both grandparents encouraging our play experiences and still learning at the same time. 
Preschool Teacher: Mrs. Hidde was my Pre-K teacher when I was four years old. I attended a half-day program. Reflecting upon her program, there is not one thing I would change about how she structured the learning versus play time. All activities encouraged play whether it was creative play with shaving cream at the table or building in the blocks area with different materials. Activities supported her curriculum theme, yet never took away the importance of children playing. 
Play Today Versus Play of My Childhood

In my childhood years, I do not recall ever being told "there wasn't time to play." However, in today's society, there is such a push for academia in the early childhood years that play is becoming extinct. Even in my own classroom, I find myself debating over when to stop the children's play because we have to follow the curriculum and daily schedule. There are days when the children are playing so well that I will skip a circle time just to prolong the interactions that the children are engaging in. A teacher shouldn't have to produce an art project to show learning, so I have been taking pictures of the children's play experiences and writing about the activities to tell parents what the children are learning about through those experiences. As I learn more through my studies in the Early Childhood Studies Masters program, I am finding more information that supports letting children play and learn from those experiences, as opposed to worksheets or mandatory art projects.  I want children to be able to explore and discover in their own element just as I was able to twenty-four years ago.

The Role of Play Throughout My Life

As I reflect on the role of play as I grew into an adult, I think of all the years I played and interacted with my younger siblings. It was through these interactions that I encouraged their creativity and learning and they supported mine. By being a playmate, we built stronger relationships and supported each other's development. 
As an adult, I need to do this for my preschoolers. By getting down to their level and playing in the centers with them, I encourage their play experiences as well as model them. These play experiences will help build children's self-esteem as they will continue playing games or toys that they know about and can succeed at. It will also help build social skills as children learn turn-taking, expressive and receptive language, and how to play well and empathize with others (Dixon, 2011). 

Dixon, E. (2011). Importance of play in child development. Retrieved November 25, 2011 from


  1. Clara,
    You make a valid point about not having to produce something to prove a child is learning, especially teacher directed crafts. I also take lots of pictures of the children in action throughout the day a post them with captions to let the parents know the learning that is taking place. Great post!

  2. I remember teddy ruxpin!! I totally forgot about him! Wow! Like Michele I like the idea of taking pictures. I am not huge on crafts but I was wondering how to show the parents what the children are learning on a regular basis. Maybe I will start a magnet board or something with pictures that I can switch out periodically. Thanks for the idea!

  3. Clara,

    Your post is great! I too remember Teddy Ruxpin! I love the quote by Patricia Ramsey, and I think it also would apply to adults. It is great that you had so many people that supported playing in your life, and now you are doing the same for other children!