Play is Work
All work and no play? Or all play and no work? Quite the dilemma, whether at the age of 2 or the age of 32!
When we think about play, the different types of play, the milestones of play, and the who/what/when/where and why of play, the first and most important thing to understand is that play is play!
Regardless of age, gender, identification, culture or nationality, play is recognized universally as a fun activity.
So, should there be this tug of war between work and play?
Just as we hide broccoli in our kid's mac and cheese, there’s a hidden agenda behind the fun that we call play. It’s really a learning experience. In all aspects of play, there are opportunities to learn and practice various skills and knowledge. It’s just not that obvious because we cover it up by calling it “play” or a “game” and those labels automatically make it “fun”. Some of us adults even go as far as trying this mind trick on ourselves in our careers to try and make our work more “fun”!
Renowned early childhood educator, Maria Montessori said, “play is the work of the child.” George Bernard Shaw, co-founder of London School of Economics said, “we don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
The best thing about the wonderful world of play is that it spans all ages, has no limits, and can never be lost!
When we consider that play has the ability to span all ages, we must also recognize that the continuum of learning through play also spans all cultures and ability levels. Every human being benefits from play, including those with exceptionalities.
Children with exceptionalities require and benefit from opportunities to play, the same as any other child. Play offers opportunities to learn and practice new skills and understandings, whether for a child with Autism or a child with a Learning Disability.
The only difference, if there is one to be considered is, is in the age in which milestones are achieved. That is consistent with all aspects of development in children with special needs is that they are expected and compared to all the natural developmental stages of the general population - the only difference is that they usually achieve these milestones at a different age/stage of their lives.
So, when we recognize that play is the work of all children, regardless of age, culture or exceptionality, then we will be more inclined to engage in play with our children and be intentional in planning opportunities to allow for play to happen, anytime and anywhere.