Let the Children Play

When was the last time you reflected on your childhood and recalled fond memories of discovering four-leafed clovers in the backyard, finding rollie pollies in the dirt and wondering how they can roll into a ball,  or making paper airplanes with old newspapers and contemplating how you could make it fly farther? How many children these days have had a chance to engage in these playful learning experiences?  The over saturation of technology from cell phones to computers to television has robbed today’s children of their childhood. This along with the hustle and bustle of over-extended schedules have created a level of stress in young lives far too early.  

Bev Bos (1934-2016), a nationally acclaimed child development expert, author, keynote speaker and presenter at NAEYC workshops around the country, was a huge proponent of the importance of play in the lives of children . She worked as the Director and Teacher at Roseville Community Preschool in California for over 40 years. It was her mission to educate parents and teachers about the importance of allowing children to enjoy just being children.  Her philosophy regarding early childhood education was a simple but profound one: children learn from playful interaction, discovery and exploration.  Or as she stated, “If it hasn’t been in the hand and the body, it can’t be in the brain.” 

 Her philosophy is important for children’s learning because they begin life with a natural curiosity to learn about their world and just need the time and opportunity to discover and experience things on their own. When children can engage their whole body and involve their senses then their brain is activated more fully and the learning will be more effective. When children are confined to their desks with commands to sit still and be quiet then we risk sabotaging their sense of wonder and discovery which is so crucial in the development of children. That is why allowing children time to play is so important. 

Bev Bos’ impact on the field of early childhood education was significant because she helped educate teachers about the best way for children to learn which is through play. Even through her many workshops she modeled this principle by having the participants engage in activities that got them moving, singing and interacting with each other.  She was in demand throughout the country because her principle of play-based learning resonated so strongly with teachers and parents.  Even today, her influence is apparent by the many successful early childhood centers across America that embrace her philosophy.  Our job as teachers is to keep that joy and sense of wonder alive, and if that means letting them use their fingers to paint instead of a paint brush; so be it! What harm is there in that? Better yet, think of all the positives that come out of letting children be creative and in charge of their own learning?  

As an early childhood educator, my mission, which aligns with Bos’ philosophy,  is to focus on every child’s strengths so that he will develop the confidence necessary to meet the challenges of each day. I also want to provide a safe and loving atmosphere that will enable my students to discover and learn about the world around them.  With the new fall year just around the corner, I want my classroom to reflect my mission.  So with this in mind, the classroom will be set up so that my students will have more free choice as they explore and discover. My science center will have a variety of real-life items that they have inquired about along with items such as magnifying glasses, tweezers, containers, and scales so that discovery can continue. Because play is so important in the learning process, my focus will be to provide engaging, relevant experiences through a wide variety of games, activities, tools and toys that they will be free to explore on their own…because, as Bev Bos stated, “Experience is not the best teacher, it is the only teacher.”