Dr. Christopher Perrin’s seminar was entitled, “Why Children Must Play to Learn”. I’ll be honest: I attended this because I like Perrin as a speaker, but also because I wanted a little permission to let go of my “school-must-be-rigorous” guilt. This guilt had been building over many days when the 6yo ran off to build intricate blanket forts in her room, instead of doing schoolwork at the table. Despite that, her reading skills are blooming, she’s memorizing her math facts, and she’s making academic connections relating to science and history. Perhaps the play is a good thing? I listened to Dr. Perrin to find out.
Perrin introduced us to the idea of a “play history”. What’s your play history? Cal Tech discovered that those with great play histories made great engineers – however, those that lacked play histories in their children were poor engineers. Cal Tech changed their interview process to include play histories, and based hiring decisions on those that had played well as children.
Plato speaks of play and learning going hand in hand: if a child doesn’t play, the learning will not be permanent.
Play is self motivating. Children want to return to the same play again and again. Of course, there is a similarity to the ideals of Classical learning: we learn through repetition.
Many toys today offer high amusement, but low on educational benefit; especially those that advertise their educational focus. David Elkind in the book The Power of Play speaks about this problem. Toys should leave something to the imagination. Another book recommendation was Stuart Brown’s Play.
Perrin stressed the importance of Dad rough and tumble play, especially with boys (although girls benefit, too!) As we get older, however, we are made to feel guilty about play. It’s “unproductive” time spent. However, play makes life lively, and it is a part of what makes a person whole.
Play has a very real, practical purpose. It prepares us for an uncertain, changing world. It’s a simulation. Animals play, especially baby animals. If you’ve ever watched a puppy, you know they are not just having fun; they’re training for hunting and social order and all the skills that an adult dog might need.
Perrin shared the definitions of Greek and Latin words that show the important connection between children, learning, and play. Paidia in Greek means “play”, while “paideia” means “children” – the words are very similar to each other. In Latin, “ludus” meant elementary school, but could also mean game or play (we get the word “ludicrous” from “ludus”).
Play is relaxation from work. It’s a way to refresh and recharge.
Entering the Flow:
“Entering the flow” is what happens when work, play, and love intersect. The result? Joy and delight.
Perrin encourages us to play with our children. Surprise them and be unpredictable! He also encourages us to push our children outdoors, or to play, create, use their imaginations, and steer them away from the technology and schoolwork devoid of all play.
So perhaps my fort building daughter is in training for a future career as an engineer?