Play is often talked about as if it were relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. – F Rogers
The percentage of playtime versus learning time we give to our children is so often weighted in favour of learning. But I would argue that to play is to learn. Young children process their thoughts and feelings through play. They learn to socialise, to be alongside one another taking turns; they learn to co-operate and rely on others. For older children, play teaches them to compromise, make rules, break the rules, and follow the rules. They learn to express their needs and make meaningful connections with others. They learn to problem-solve, be patient and ask for help.
A child’s play is not simply a reproduction of what he has experienced, but a creative reworking of the impressions he has acquired. - Vygotsky
Teenagers, on the other hand, tend to press play, whether it be films, music, TV or YouTube, they use their playtime to develop themselves and their relationships. Their play is about connection; they link up through multimedia and a sense of belonging. They encounter a variety of experiences, emotions, and learning; good and bad by playing with their connections.
Can I encourage the homeschoolers to think about reversing this percentage and making play their most valuable resource in lockdown? Attachment Theory teaches us that in times for stress and fear, children will look to their primary caregivers for containment and reassurance. This does not involve schoolwork, but simply responding to your child’s emotional needs, keeping close and providing a secure base.
As parents, our sense of love and belonging is complete, our world is with us, and they are safe. However, we are not the centre of the universe for our older children and teenagers, their world is their friends, partners, and freedom.
Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong. – M. Hale
Life is messy, confusing, chaotic, uncertain, and scary at the moment. Our children’s play will undoubtedly reflect this, they may even regress. This is normal and essential. If play is how children learn and process, then they NEED to play messily and chaotically to make sense of what is going on in the world. Social play has gone for many children, impacting their development, thankfully parents can step into the gap by becoming playful companions.
Don’t try to keep an immaculate home, ignore paint on clothes and pen on the carpet. You don’t have to be in control all the time nor do you have to keep it together. This has been a hard slog for us all. For some, their response is to shut down and become immobilised, this too is normal. What has happened is abnormal. Education will feel like a real struggle after all this time, but our teachers are waiting in the wings to take over and expect no more of you.
My advice is to look after yourselves, embrace play and remember this too will pass.