Playing for kids is a powerful thing! It allows them to use their imagination and try out the causes and effects of maneuvering building blocks or measuring how much sand will overflow the bucket. It lets them solve problems like why their sand castle keeps getting washed away or how to set up a huge cardboard box and turn it into a castle. It makes their creative ideas flow as they make up scenarios for their toy dinosaurs as they set them up around the floor. For years and years as a Reading Specialist, I’ve screamed the value of play in the classroom, at recess, and at home. After all, how can we expect kids to “read between the lines” using their imagination if they never get a chance to try it out and practice?
When my daughter was three, my sister gave her a big, yellow Tonka dump truck which became the first of many vehicles to work in the dirt pile in our backyard. Although she also loved to play on a blanket in the shade dressing and setting up shopping sprees for her Barbies, the dirt pile was an all-time favorite for her and her friends. Years ago, kids played outside all day. They sometimes had their lunch on the picnic table or snacks next to the blow-up rubber swimming pool. It seems that life was simpler but richer back in the day! Kids rarely missed school and loved to learn.
A few years ago something changed – kids no longer played in school because a push for academics replaced it during the day. No more food, no more parties, no more project-based learning. Recess time was reduced or eliminated all together. That didn’t really work as planned because kids became nervous and stressed and grades went down instead of up. Kids stopped wanting to go to school. The mental health of kids became endangered. Kids replaced reading with video games. Parents opted them out of state tests. As Kevin Henkes had his beloved character Chrysanthemum say, “School is no place for me!”
What a shame because school can and should be a place where learning is the exciting focus and it can be fun. Why has this Maker Space craze taken over the library? Hmmmm … kids get to play and be creative and “make” things there.
With that all said, I guess you can tell that I think kids need lots and lots of play. All the After-Reading Activities in my read-aloud guides for picture books (see my book to the right), include creative ideas for kids to make after parents or adults read them a story. The after-reading activities like this cement the ideas of the story into their memory. There are also suggestions for day trips and other projects and research for kids to do with their parents.
In honor of Spring and upcoming Summer, I am attaching for you a sample of two read-aloud guides for two picture books I love. I hope you and your children love them. “Happy Reading!”