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[ARTICLE] For A Child, Play Is Research, Inquiry, Invention


If I was a parent of a young child today, say between 4 or 5 years old, I would give them as much open-ended play with as many sensory materials--safe and interesting materials (preferably many natural ones)--as I could provide.

For a child, play is research, inquiry, investigation...the surest and best way to find out both about the world and ones capacity to interact and affect it. It is for them a way to learn to gain control of what is possible and to learn to be content with what you cannot impact.

This morning Kitty and I had 23 third graders come to the center for a 90 minute Discovery Workshop along with the teacher and 7 parents. My oh my what fun we had! They were amazing making things. For to fiddle is to create, to invent and innovate.

I find it curious and wonderful that in the 1500 managers surveyed by IBM, regarding the qualities they look for in new employees, the number one quality is creativity...the ability to see one thing and imagine another, another way, another possibility...to imagine.

That is what those 23 third graders were doing all morning...developing their capacity to create...AND in so doing feel that inner power to create harmony and order through their own unique thoughtful intention. What they did with those materials is amazing! AMAZING. And the parents felt it; they witnessed their children free from the bondage of the prescribed instruction...the "This is how I want you to do it" oppression.

Free open-ended play is the surest prescription for young healthy minds to grow.

The teacher headed back home on the bus with the children. I asked her is she would please give the children time once back to school, to draw and write about their experience. We would not want to leave out the opportunity to develop written language skills and the drawing as a way of unifying both hemispheres of their brain. In terms of social and emotional wellbeing...there is nothing that beats a fully, happily, creatively engaged child...or adult for that matter.

Walter Drew, EdD