Just Playing

by Anita Wadley

When I’m building in the block area

Please don’t say I’m “Just Playing”.

For, you see, I’m learning as I play

About balance, I may be an architect someday.

When I’m getting all dressed up,

Setting the table, caring for the babies,

Don’t get the idea I’m “Just Playing”.

I may be a mother or a father someday.

When you see me up to my elbows in paint,

Or standing at an easel, or molding and shaping clay,

Please don’t let me hear you say, “He is Just Playing”.

For, you see, I’m learning as I play.

I just might be a teacher someday.

When you see me engrossed in a puzzle or some “playing” at my school,

Please don’t feel the time is wasted in “play”.

For you see, I’m learning as I play.

I’m learning to solve problems and concentrate.

I may be in business someday.

When you see me cooking or tasting foods,

Please don’t think that because I enjoy it, it is “Just Play.”

I’m learning to follow directions and see the differences.

I may be a cook someday.

When you see me learning to skip, hop, run and move my body,

Please don’t say, I’m “Just Playing”.

For you see, I’m learning as I play.

I’m learning how my body works.

I may be a doctor, nurse or athlete someday.

When you ask me what I’ve done at school today,

And I say, “I just played”.

Please don’t misunderstand me.

For you see, I’m learning as I play.

I’m learning to enjoy and be successful in my work.

I’m preparing for tomorrow.

Today, I am a child and my work is play.

I wanted to share this poem with you because I found it very empowering and enlightening. I think we often overlook the importance of play and its importance in language development. Life has a tendency to be so busy. It is important to slow down and take the time to let our children “just play” and to “just play” with them.

Play is the way children learn. It is their “work”. Through play, children learn about the world and the environment around them and how things work. Play provides the opportunity for developing motor skills, perceptual skills, cognitive skills, social skills and language skills. In infancy, children develop the sense of touch, the ability to differentiate sounds, the ability to focus and coordinate eye movement and learn how to explore through play. Play develops language in a naturalistic setting.

Pretend play promotes a child’s social, emotional, language and cognitive development. For example, playing house requires social communication skills for “giving and taking”, turn taking and role-playing. It also increases imagination. Play with toy vehicles provides the opportunity for increasing vocabulary, associating sounds to specific vehicles, increasing auditory and articulation skills by producing and listening to vehicle sounds. In addition, vehicle play can also develop descriptive concepts, such as fast, slow, big, little and colors, as well as part/whole relationships (i.e. wheel/car, ladder/ fire truck, siren/ police car, wings/airplane). Play with a toy farm will encourage labeling of animals and associating animals to their sounds. It can also develop spatial concepts of in, out, on, off, over, under, in front, in back and next to by placing animals in different places and talking about what you are doing. Play with baby dolls promotes following directions and understanding of verbs in context such as drinking, eating, walking, sleeping, crying, etc. Building blocks reinforces counting, colors, letters, concepts of big, tall, high, little, up, down, fall, on, off and builds motor and visual skills. The imitation of household chores is a great play tool. Children love imitating mom and dad around the house in sweeping, vacuuming, setting the table, etc. Mr. Potato Head is a good activity for identifying and labeling body parts, following directions and discussing functions of body parts. Blowing bubbles and horns promotes oral motor skills. Riding bikes promotes motor skills and visual skills. Card games and board games are wonderful play for developing vocabulary, concepts, turn-taking, social language, following directions and problem solving skills. In a nutshell, children learn and grow through all play.

I hope you have found this poem and information on play insightful and helpful. I hope you look at “Just Playing” differently now and that you take time to enjoy playing with your child as well as take time out to enjoy watching your child play. Remember, “Today I am a child and my work is play.”