Memories of Play – an essay

As we mentioned in our last post, we recently shared two publications with our members, Priorities in Play and Inspirationally Playful. These were shared with us at the 2023 IPA World Conference, by John McKendrick of Glasgow Caledonian University. As he states in his forward,

“Children’s play is one incidental and everyday occurrence that readers of this volume will never fail to appreciate. But what we sometimes take for granted, or fail to celebrate, are the sparks that initiated this interest in play. We have gathered over fifty reflections on what has inspired, and continues to inspire, those with a professional interest in play. It is a global collection, comprising thoughts from each of the six main populated continents, with contributions from nineteen different nations. As with its companion collection, Priorities for Play, there are reflections from parents, playworkers, play advocates, early years practitioners, academics, and professionals from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds…

Our inspirations for play come in many forms: we hope you enjoy our celebration of the people, places and practices that shape our world of play.”

Included with this collection is an essay from IPA USA President Debra Lawrence.

Memories of Play

As a child, adolescent, and adult, I am an example of how play contributed to my development and has guided my professional life choices. Play is the foundation for all learning. It is fundamental to healthy development, and as a child, I played freely from sunup to sundown. These rich, engaging, and active experiences provided the landscape needed for future success.

As a child of five years old, I suffered a life-threatening accident requiring me to learn to walk again; eleven years of surgeries followed. This prevented me from attending kindergarten, so my first formal school experience was in the first grade. In the days before first grade, my time during the day was filled with active, risky play that included climbing trees, investigating, and discovering, following my interests, pretending, all mostly outside. My parents, who were loving and nurturing, never read a book to me. I never went to preschool, and my daily experiences did not include anything that could be described as academic.

Nevertheless, when I entered first grade at six years and six months old, having never written my name or known what a letter was, I read fluently within three months. I am not a child prodigy. This is just evidence of how play lays the foundation for all future learning, and if we want children to be ‘ready to learn’, then play is how to make this happen.