My apologies for this unedited work.
I have a philosophy of play that has developed over the years I've worked with children in and out of the context of preschool, church, and church camp contexts. For our culture today, I am struck by the dichotomy between the cares of the world and our nation and the life of a child. The following poem encapsulates for me a centering prayer for children and for the world, as well as echoes some of my philosophy of play today:
I will not play at war no moreI will only play at peace.For if I play at war some moreThe guns will never cease. ~ stc
In preparation for my own work with children in the context of faith, one assignment was to come up with a philosophy of play. The following brief statements and comments also shape the role of play for me as a Christian educator.
I believe in God the Playmate, Maker of every kind of place to play and every kind of playmate, both the visible and invisible. As God's children, we are called into fellowship with one another and to be as a family: Both to live together as one and to work together in fun; at camp, at home, at school or at work, no matter where we stay or what we play.
I believe in Jesus Christ, our friend at all times, who is with us when we are sad, mad, and glad. He helps us to love all our playmates, even when it is hard. As we seek to know one another, we can/may feel sadness, anger, or happiness. It is easy to play with others when we are happy, but sometimes it is hard for us to play with one another when we are grieving, lonely or scared. Some times it is hard to be with those we play and love when we are hurt or angry at things we have seen, felt, or heard. But even then Jesus is our friend and can be with us to cheer us up, until we are ready to play again.
I believe the Holy Spirit allows us to have fellowship companionably. Without fear of competitive games that make some losers, some winners, I believe we can be more in harmony with the Spirit and each other. As children of God, we have also been given to each other as brothers and sisters. I believe the best choice is to choose to let each other know we care about one another's presence by giving each other positive regard in our play. We can choose to be inclusive and seek to share our gifts and talents with one another in such ways that everyone can play, and everyone can enjoy being a part of the fun in fellowship.
I believe that God also made us to share how we play and live our lives with others. When we learn how to play, it helps us to remember it even better when we in turn teach what we've learned to others. Therefore, as children of God, we are not only playmates, but also teachers to one anther. We can share what we have gleaned in our walks of life to those we play with, teaching them and playing with them until they are able to also teach it to others. Then we can take our turn learning from them, fellowshipping in communion and love. ~stc
Let me refer to a time when I worked in early childhood education. For preschool aged children, play is life, play is their reality, and that is the natural language they speak; a time where the amazing stages of parallel play shift to the growing awareness of others around them and interactive play. It is a time of awakening, where children try out different roles in life through active play. It marks the stage of brain development where active dendrite growth peaks.
I think forms of play have largely remained the same; except for the growing edge of digital play, which actually takes the themes behind forms of play and puts them into unreal, physically passive contexts.
Forms of play still seem to remain along the themes of good guys, bad guys (especially through elementary school), trying on new roles (preschool dress-up clothes), and exploring creative expression from art expressions to imaginative play. The deeper issues behind these themes and forms of play include the foundations behind all human experience: the basic needs for each individual once the physiological ones are taken care of. These include safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization (Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs).
As a child, my own forms of play especially centered on creative expression. I would become any number of animals and/or their keepers fanciful and real with my little sister and act out their lives according to our creative minds. On my own with peers, I would tramp through woods and trails, make forts under trees, or on the other end of the spectrum, create whole space cities with Space Legos.
Today, looking back on how as a teacher I facilitated play for my preschoolers, the philosophy undergirding our school's principals focused on community, making choices that upheld community and experiencing logical consequences when choices were made that broke down community. Creative expression was celebrated, from story dictation to daily art projects to active imaginative play indoors and outdoors.When I visit my old school today, I can step right back into this whole-child philosophy of discovery learning.
These memories shape my approach to life today in that I have a special place in my heart for early childhood development and look forward to being a parent someday; where I can once again exercise my imaginative side in understanding (or trying to!) life through the eyes of a child. In my professional life, without an understanding of discovery play, I would not have explored so many of my own options in settling on vocational choices. Play is and was essential, and I don't mean the digital kind!
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