"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood."
-Mr. (Fred) Rogers
My kids wants to play all. the. time. Well, duh, what kids doesn't. But what strikes me, honestly, is little Miss Avila. She is 7. She does cursive and multiplication and division. She reads chapter books and falls anywhere between the 1st and the 5th grade for her school work. I don't say this to brag...so hang with me for a sec.
By the nature of being 7 and all growed-up (and like a super sponge in school) the common notion would be to keep at it with her - to push her to go further in her studies, to dive deeper in unit work (or just more work) and all that jazz. Now I'm not dissing unit work and pushing kids but I've noticed something really interesting with her: as much as she loves (well, sometimes "loves") school and as serious a student as she is, the thing she wants to do more than anything else is....drumroll....play.
Legos, barbies, forts, superhero, pirate, boxing, riding bikes....it doesn't matter what it is. After their massive fort building this morning they are now immersed in a world of dress up - some Seahawks dude married to a Belle with a Rapunzel daughter. Unfortunately Levi is the Rapunzel daughter. (I have the cutest picture but Michael would kill me if I posted it. He has a thing about his boyzzz in dresses and I don't blame him.)
Lucky for Avila she got all her school work done bright and early. Well, lucky for me, too, because once they build a world it is like PULLING TEETH to get them to come out of it. They become different people: fire fighters and princesses and bad guys and whoever else they want to be. They spend hours, HOURS, building Lego creations and if I were to interrupt with a silly little math lesson my head would get chopped off. Or at the very least I would hear over and over from the school table: "Levi, don't touch my tower!!!"
Sometimes it's really hard to balance getting our school work done with their desire to play. I try to get it busted out after breakfast so I don't have to worry about interrupting them the rest of the day (unless it's some review while they're eating or a read aloud while they're coloring). But if we can't ('cause you know, insert baby) then we just make it work. I give her 5,000 warnings that school is starting and then we roll through our work with intentionality. (Hence the reason I don't do busy work. That would be the death to us all....) Yes, sometimes she has to sacrifice some/lots of her play time but I also realize how important this stage is to her little heart and soul (not to mention development). So we get 'er done so she can go back to her "real work."
And don't get me started on Max. Actually Max LOVES school. He wants to do more than his sister. Luckily we can get 500 chapters done in like 30 minutes (most days I only spend 10-20 with him one-on-one and in that time we can get reading and math done) but he's just about 5 and there's no way I would push anything at this point. In the fall I started direct reading instruction but soon realized he just wasn't ready so we shelved it for a few months and now he loves it. As a former educator and current mother it's my opinion that early childhood education is pushed way too much and that kids just need to PLAAAAYYYYYY. But that argument's for anotha day.
OK, time to get back on track here. At the end of the day I've realized that kids have a short window to be kidzzz. Play is so important to them...and they need it. Like a mama needs her coffee. Yup, serious bizzness. So, let's not feel guilty or like we're cheating them out of something "bigger or smarter" than playing. Plus, when they're off in their own world I get to have alone time. Sweet, precious, don't bug me alone time. I guess play really is that awesome.