Games and play are vital to growth. Every creature learns through exploring, from little frogs to more complex animals like big cats, and other predators. The most complex the creature, the more they play as they grow. Humans being extremely complex, play a lot.
Think about it for just a second: Your kids love playing in their fort. They built it (building codes be darned), decorated it and furnished it. What did they learn? Stop scratching your head, there was a ton of learning happening!
Everything from how…
…to make the fort stay stand up. Even if it seems to defy Harry Potter rules and looks something like the Weasley’s house, there were instinctive calculations going on, geometry and algebra included.
…to make it a home away from home, using color, and texture.
…working together breeds more success than tearing each other down.
So why do we insist that everything must learned from a “rigorous” education? Remember that rigorous can also mean “stiff and unyielding,” it’s not always the optimal form of learning. It’s not always wrong either, there’s a balance be struck.
Games are much the same as the fort example. There is so much more going on in our minds than just the current topic, and learning really should be more holistic in this way. Plato, for all that I think he had wrong, he had many things right, like this:
“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”
This isn’t to say that we should NOT teach our kids certain things – history, language, math, science – just that we should also take into account those things that bring them joy. Those areas where they’re truly amazing start to shine when we allow our kids the freedom and time to explore and play.
How do we help our kids discover this?
We play with them. Games of all sort. Make believe games, board games and card games. Computer games, art games and more. We help them explore ideas and concepts to which they’re attracted. All the while, cataloging the really cool stuff that mesmerized them so we can find other ways to explore the topics.