Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What I am learning about Imagination, play, and problem solving

As an early Childhood student, I know all about the importance of play. It has been continually drilled in me since day one. (Something I assure you I am eternally grateful to my instructors for) I am able to take any activity a child might do and spout out several concepts a child might be learning. However, reading and hearing something is completely different than experiencing it first hand.

I have heard many a tale about growing up outside, with very few toys and having to entertain yourself. In fact Daddy locked us out of the house. While I mostly read on the porch my two brothers played throughout the neighborhood. You had to use your imaginations to be entertained. The bat you had became a million other things. There were always new games to learn and new rules attached to old games.

Now take a walk into the toy section of your local Walmart, target, or any place that has toys. You will find so many specialized toys. Most of the toys serve one purpose, to limit the imaginations of our children. The toys are stemmed from TV shows mostly or they have one specific use. Even though there are many educational toys out there, how many ways can you use it? Almost everything requires batteries and those that don't are rarely touched. When you are done with that go to the stationary, office or Art area of the store. There you will find coloring books that all you do is use one marker and it colors the page for you.

While those coloring books are great for the times we are out and I don't need to haul 10 markers with 10 caps, or I don't need to worry about him coloring on the chair at the doctor's office. I know several parents that restrict their children's art solely to those. In what way is that encouraging your child to imagine? What masterpiece will your child possibly create? Instead you will gain a picture that is just like 10 million others out there.

I remember watching my brother draw growing up (and he was a good artist) Many times he had just a pencil and paper (remember we were locked outside most of the day) He learned to use different shades of grey to color his pictures. What he really did was learn to be crafty and resourceful. Or, if you want to look at the bigger picture, PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS.

I have been interning with a local preschool program this semester. In the 3 short months I have worked in the 3 year old class I have been regularly amazed by the advances and discoveries the children have made through playing. One such example, playing with bristle blocks the children have created glasses, people, dogs, rabbits, cars, trains, hammers and drills.
Yes, they still make houses, but they took something very basic and found new interesting ways to use it. Out of the class there are really a few that can do it, the rest imitate the new ways to use the same toy. In fact the same child who showed me the glasses, went on to show me the rabbit. Watching the other children imitate the first and play in new ways shows me that these children WANT to try different things. They don't want to play the same way with the same thing every day. Back to the toys in the store, most of the toys do not encourage this.

Sadly, what many of today's children are starting to lack is problem solving skills. They are used to everything being done for them, used to playing with everything a certain way. It does not seem like an issue now, however the longer they go the more apparent it will be that they lack these skills.

Even many young adults in my generation suffer the same problem for the same reasons. When money is tight most of my generation will resort to the dollar menu or hamburger helper regularly. While I do this from time to time, I also have learned how to create meals from things in my cupboard, and to take a few cheap ingredients and create delicious dinners.

So what is the point of all this? This week is the week of the Young child. It is also National Turn off week. So let's encourage our children's imaginations, and develop thier problem solving skills by trying some of these things:
Turn off the Tube
  1. Purchase basic toys for your children (keep a few in stock for birthdays too)
  2. Find new ways to play with the toys we have
  3. Play with your child
  4. Take some of the old newspaper and turn it into a hat, kite, or boat.
  5. Play a game (I will be posting on the importance of games soon)

Post some of your other suggestions here as well!

Check out some of these resources for more information

1 comment:

  1. Paper plates make great flying saucers, jellyfish (fold one in half and make paper streamers), and we even made a manta ray by sticking two together and using a drinking straw for the tail. Relatively inexpensive and easy to stick together and decorate.

    I've found that things that we've made don't have to be perfect replicas of what they're supposed to be. If you manage a rough copy, the little person's imagination does the rest.


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