Every parent wants to see their kid excel at what they do. As parents, we spend time reading to them, helping them learn the alphabet, teaching them math, and enrolling them in the very best schools possible. While all of these thing are important, Vivian Gussin Paley suggest that children's work is to play! Vivian, who has been teaching kindergarten and nursery for thirty seven years, has studied children develop as they play fantasy with other children. (Fantasy play is...) Vivian suggests that children who play fantasy learn skills that will stay with them through out their lives.
Have you ever taken the time to watch children pretend to battle with a dragon, dance like a ballerina, act like a character from their favorite book? Have you noticed how creative they become and how quickly they jump from story to story? Paley states that "children are intoxicated by the seemingly endless supply of plots available just for the thinking. Making up stories is the skill most admired by other children, who do not doubt the value of characters who jump higher than the moon during school time. ... The mind that has been freely associating with playful imagery is primed to tackle new ideas. Fantasy play, rather than being a distraction, helps children achieve the goal of having an open mind, whether in the service of further storytelling or in formal lessons." How can an open mind and a good imagination help with formal lessons? Take for example learning a physics concept. If you can visualize the concept, then the concept is easier to remember and understand. While those concepts that are to abstract to visualize, are difficult to understand and soon will be forgotten. A vivid imagination can help a child conquer many difficult subject such as chemistry, physics, and even math.
Growing up is an exciting and scary venture. Consider a child's first day of school. A soon-to-be kindergardener may ask himself, "Is the teacher going to be nice?" Or "Will I be able make friends that will play with me. These are just a few question that kindergardeners might ask themselves. Paley recounts a story of a boy named Elliot with these same fears. The day before Elliot goes to school, he tells his mother a story of a boy who sees his new teacher and runs away out of fear. Later that evening he retells his story and than acts it out with his sister. After telling and act out his story he seemed ok with the idea of going to school. As children tell and act out their story, they have an incredible ability to work through the problem on their own.
Another wonderful benefit of fantasy play is it's ability to teach children how to communicate with other children. Communication is a skill that will be important through out everyone life. Vivian asked mentors of a head start program what aspect of classroom practice concerns them the most. They responded " Conversation! We don't hear good conversations. There are mostly one-line questions and answers, but the teachers don't simply converse with the children. And they don't encourage children to talk to one another,either." Fantasy play starts with one person ideas and than it snowballs as other children had in their own little twists. As they change the story line they learn how to communicate with other and how to work with other ideas. Sound like a great way to teach children how to communicate with their friends. Vivian states that "the need to tell one another a story exerts a tremendous pull among children, powerful enough to overcome shyness and the fear of the unknown."
Fantasy play has many more benefits, and we as parents, need to help our children in their work of fantasy play