Panel gives evidence for the need to ‘play’
October 25, 2012. By Marla Blair, A group of local believers in the activity referred to as “play” offered convincing evidence for being an active participant at a recent symposium hosted by Child Care Connections and Christian Child Care, and organized by Coleen Moore. The six-person panel approached the issue from different perspectives, but delivered a unified message that play is something children do naturally and adults should not be afraid to revisit on a regular basis.
The program opened with a video-taped presentation by Kathy Kirsh-Pasek, author and nationally recognized advocate for early childhood development programs. Kirsh-Pasek wrote Einstein Never Used Flashcards and A Mandate for Playful Learning in Preschool, both best-sellers. Her presentation on children learning through play was recorded at a spring workshop at the University of Illinois-Springfield.
Panel members offered their insights into the importance of play from personal and work-related experiences. The panel included Mallory Ramos, Logan County Public Health Department; Josh Slightom, owner/co-manager of Anytime Fitness; Marcia Hieronymus and Barbara Follis, teachers with Community Action Program of Central Illinois’ Head Start program; Roy Logan, Director of Programs and Special Events, Lincoln Park District; Dorothy Dean, professor in Early Childhood Education, Lincoln Christian University.
Ramos discussed LCPHD-sanctioned programs that promote movement and more active lifestyles, such as “Heart Smart for Teens”, which Slightom assists with. Logan’s facility has also partnered with the health department to implement an exercise program designed to get teens up and moving.
Roy Logan told the audience about a summer-long children’s program he developed this year to give young children fun and educational experiences, filling the time they might have spent swimming at the pool, if it had been open. (Lincoln Park District’s pool was closed after last year’s season ended and will be replaced with a new pool, but not until the 2014 swimming season.)
Logan led children on a summer walk-a-thon that began with exhausted, grumbling kids and, after weeks of walking everywhere and singing songs along the way, ended with more fit children who knew more about their community. The group toured Lincoln IGA, the fire department and water treatment plant (dubbed The Scoop on Poop), et al. They did ride a bus to the pheasant farm south of town, but another day they walked to and from Madigan State Park. Every day was a new adventure. He is already planning next summer’s activity and has resolved to continue the program even after the new pool is glistening in the sun.
Barbara Follis and Marcia Hieronymus talked about the lessons children learn while they make-believe and go through the motions of what they can see in their imaginations. Interaction with other students in Head Start teaches them coping skills, socialization, paying attention, taking turns, sharing and following directions. They are given doable responsibilities such as stacking their nap cots and picking up toys and supplies, giving them self-confidence and teaching self-reliance and helping skills, balancing organized instruction and rules with playtime. The preschool-aged children reap physical rewards from intermittent lengths of time spent outside on playground equipment, swinging, running and playing games.
Dorothy Deany, LCU, addressed teachers in the audience, telling them not to plan their lessons in specific minute-by-minute segments, and to encourage personal interaction. “You have to let the conversation and interest guide your time,” Deany said, “Listen and teach listening by modeling it. Let the children play with each other, not electronic games and gadgets.”
Coleen Moore added, “Rote learning is finally being pushed down the list of priorities. There needs to be more advocacy for our kids.
“You (attendees) have to educate the families and the community about the need to let children play and the importance of creative activity.”
Josh Slightom spoke of personal experiences as a young child, growing up in a family of farmers and dairymen who knew how to work hard and long hours, but didn‘t take much time for play or recreation. He related his current practice of playing with he and his wife’s puppies - growling and crawling around with them on the floor.
Slightom made his point and enforced Coleen Moore’s point when he said, “I am teaching the puppies by acting like a dog and showing them with my voice and actions when to be aggressive and when to be nice.
“We have to help parents learn that to teach their children, they need to act like children, too. They should be given permission to play and play with their children. Then they will connect and create healthy relationships and happy children.”