By Shawna Scale, OKN Early Years Initiative Community Impact Animator
With the end of October nearby, we will soon be reminded to turn back our clocks in order to gain a few extra hours of daylight. It’s also an opportunity for us to literally turn back time and reflect on our experiences as children and what this time of year meant to us.
As a child, for me fall was a magical time of playing outdoors until it was too dark or too cold to stay outside. I remember collecting acorns and brightly coloured leaves on my way to school and trading them with my friends at recess, jumping into piles of raked leaves in my backyard, and running through the fields at a local farm to find the perfect pumpkin for carving.
Play was as integral then, as it is now, to a child’s physical, social and emotional health and learning. Unfortunately, as Dr. Jean Clinton recently pointed out, the importance of play and learning is not well understood among parents who are more inclined to value traditional academic and structured activities over play. In order to shift this thinking, we need to change the conversation to address the importance of play with families, caregivers, colleagues and others who work with children during the early years.
Thankfully, as professionals working with families, many of us have daily opportunities to highlight the importance of play within our work and how it can be beneficial to both children, parents and caregivers. Through the Early Years Initiative, OKN and its partners are doing this by promoting Connect, Play & Learn, Every Day!, a campaign developed to raise awareness about the importance of learning through play during the early years. Parents and practitioners alike can access information, resources and play ideas online.
The more we discuss and document the importance of play with families during visits and in programs, the more likely parents will value the benefits play has at home, in school, and in the community.