Category Archives: Play

Beginnings, endings and the important stuff between

quilt puzzle

In the early 2000s, this poster was used to help explain the concept behind Healthy Child Manitoba.
Although no longer current, the poster is still accurate. It illustrates the partnership between government departments to ensure the healthy development of Manitoba children.

I always thought of it as a puzzle, with those jutting out pieces fitting into the concave parts of the next to form a whole that suddenly became a unified picture.
But years later I have come to think of it as a quilt. The topping is all these services stitched together. The backing is the support given by government and community. The fill is our children and families, connected by the services that are available to everyone. The stitching is the common thread throughout.

Although both analogies are appropriate, I prefer the quilt version.
Puzzles are fun and for many they are play, which relates strongly to early childhood. But quilts are warm and can become fuzzy with usage, reminding me of family and community.
A puzzle can be taken apart. It is much more difficult to take a quilt apart.
If you lose a puzzle piece, what used to be fun becomes frustration. It is much harder to lose a quilt.
And often I find that the value of a quilt is directly proportional to its age and usage. The more fraying the better. Frayed puzzle parts, however, do not make for good play.

Analogies are easy; in life, it is not quite so simple. Families are complicated. Communities are complicated.
But what a marvelous quilt we can create when we spend the time and make the effort.

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Childhood has a beginning and an end, although the latter is not so well-defined. Some manage to keep their inner child alive much longer than others.
The seasons of our lives come to an end as well. Pre-school becomes school-age. School-age become teenage. Teenage becomes adult. The child may eventually become the parent.
Beginnings and endings could not exist without each other. One flows into the other.

As the late Harry Chapin used to sing:

“All my life’s a circle
Sunrise and sundown
The moon rose through the nighttime
Till the day break comes around.”

Or as poet T.S. Eliot wrote:

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Here’s to  the further exploration of quilts and puzzles, partnerships and relationships, parents, children and family.

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Play, Prescriptions and Purpose

A recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that doctors should write prescriptions for play during early-childhood checkups.

The report made national and even international headlines, shining a spotlight on the concept of ‘prescriptions for play’.

Few people who work in early child development would be surprised by the report’s contents. We’ve been saying many of the same things for a long time.

“Play is not frivolous; it is brain building,” the report said.

“Pediatricians can play an important role in emphasizing the role of a balanced curriculum that includes the importance of playful learning for the promotion of healthy child development,” the authors wrote.

In an opinion piece in the Washington Post September 14, children’s author Katherine Marsh decried the current thinking that:

“Play can’t be just what children do or what they enjoy — it has to serve a purpose”

She continued:

“No one wants his or her child to become a purposeless adult. But part of the joy of childhood is doing things because they anchor you to the moment, not because they will reap future benefits or rewards. There is a sense of mindfulness children feel when they play that so many of us long for as adults. This is why the AAP report is so important — and why we need to implement its philosophy by trusting ourselves as parents and teachers, not by following doctor’s orders. True play is freedom from purpose, and no doctor can prescribe that.”

Prescriptions might be a stretch, but it cannot hurt for family doctors to talk to parents about the vital role of play in childhood.

As for the ‘purpose’ argument, well, no activity can be classified as ‘play’ unless it involves fun and joy. But play DOES have a purpose.

In a sense, play is the work of children. They learn how things work. They explore and discover. They learn how to participate in group activities. They learn how to navigate the world around them. Play prepares children for adulthood.

We can acknowledge that purpose without fixating on it. Fixations can be unhealthy. Play, on the other hand, is part of healthy child development.

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