It's been a year of learning to trust in themselves and each other and how to be a member of a community. They've been allowed time to move, jump, dance, sing, and play. We've learned important skills and concepts this year - in reading and writing, math, science, Spanish, and social studies - but inherent in all of this learning, has been holding sacred the time to play and explore our environment. Giving the children the gift of play has been an invaluable learning experience. They've learned vital social and emotional skills that could not be learned anywhere else – how to get along with others, how to be empathic, nurturing, kind, strong, generous, how to deal with difficult people, how to be a part of something bigger than themselves, how to get their own needs met without upsetting the needs of others. Learning how to play is as important as anything that can come from play. We want them to know that life can be fun, that they have the ability to solve problems and communicate their needs.
Through play, children learn how to get along with people. Every opportunity to play with other children is a crash course in what works and what doesn’t. There is compromise and negotiation. They will learn the edge of their own boundaries, what feels right and what doesn’t, and how to respect the boundaries of others. Sometimes there is a need for assertiveness. Sometimes there is need to walk away. Even as adults it can be hard to know which way to go.
I feel grateful and honored to have spent the past year with this incredible group of children. Just as I have taught them, they too, have taught me - how to laugh easily, how to be silly, how to see the wonder and joy in simple things. Our children have such a limited time to explore, experiment, grow and be enriched in the way that only free play can do. It isn’t long before responsibilities and schedules set in. But if, as the adults in their lives, we can foster a love of play, not just because "that’s what kids do", but because of its inherent importance, we will be giving them something that will serve them well in relationships, in work and in life.