Monday, February 11, 2013

Play is Children's Work

Growing up I always thought of play as something separate from school, learning or as educational. Play to me was something that I loved to do, alone, or with my siblings and friends. We would play games for hours, using our imaginations and going on all sorts of adventures. Looking back now I can see how important play is, and how much I learned, and how much can be learned through games.

My mother home schooled all four of us and one thing she taught me is that school and learning are everywhere. I didn't realize it at the time but we learned through playing many times. We built a castle, and dressed up and had a huge feast when learning about medieval culture. We made wooden guns, had my brothers dress up as soldiers and the girls sewed skirts and nursing bags, when we learned about the civil war. We got together in a big group, made a bonfire in our friends yard, and ran around in the woods reenacting our own civil war.

In Little woman Marmee often also uses play as a way to learn, she treats it as important aspect of her girls everyday lives. The girls put on a play at the beginning of the book, they had to do all the work, make the costumes, the set and write the play! That is a lot of work, and they had an amazing time doing it, and it also kept them occupied.

There is also a common theme throughout the book of playing Pilgrims Progress. The girls recreate having a burden and carrying their burdens, they go to the top of the house, which represents Heaven. Even though they play at this, the girls also recognize the burdens that they carry, such as Jo's temper, Meg's vanity, and so forth, and they try throughout the book to work through them.

Play in this book also gives the girls a safe place to express themselves, and learn about the world around them. Jo is frustrated by being a girl and having constraints and acting ladylike. Through play, and creating their play, Jo is able to act out all the male characters, and experience new situations that she wouldn't be able to otherwise. Marmee encourages each girl to play and experience what they are passionate about. Beth plays with her dolls, taking care of each one and loving them as if they were her own children. Jo is able to express herself through her writing. Amy is able to pursue her passion for art, playing with all sorts of mediums and landscapes. Meg is able to act like a girl and forget about how she worries about fitting in with society and being ladylike.

Play is an important part of every child's life it is their work in a way because it is how they learn to interact socially, learn about the environment around them, a safe place for them to experience new things and a way for them to use their imagination and be creative. 

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