September has arrived and children have returned to school. They are re-acquainting themselves with the “reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic” that teachers are eager to share with students. But learning does not take place only in a classroom.
Play is vital for learning. It is not “recess” or “timeout from learning.” Instead it is essential for a child’s cognitive and emotional development. Play can help children work out situations in their world, such as social dynamics in a group. A group of children deciding what game to play and the roles of each participant means they are learning how to settle differences and work together.
Board games help to teach rules, reading, counting and other educationally relevant skills. Block building, sculpting clay and other creative hands-on activities help a child see how things work. Critical thinking skills come into play as children figure out how to use Legos or K’Nex to design amusement park rides or create robots. Many architects or engineers may have started on their career path by playing with blocks.
Unstructured play allows children to make decisions for themselves and to develop their own interests. It also encourages children to learn how to budget their time — something that doesn’t happen if they travel from one scheduled activity to another. Playing alone at times gives a childan opportunity to think, explore and create.
Schlow Centre Region Library provides a learning environment in a playful setting for children and families. Here, school-age children can pursue a hobby such as teaching themselves drawing or finding the newest information on sports’ trading cards. A circulating toy collection provides developmentally appropriate games, puzzles and puppets for young children. An expanding school-age area provides space for kids to meet and “hang.” They can choose to play board games or lounge while reading the newest graphic novel. “Block Parties” will debut Oct. 19. There, younger children can tinker with wooden blocks, and older kids can play with Legos.
Of course, as a book lover, I find that a great story is one of my best stress relievers. Children can discover new authors via the “Read-Alikes” notebooks: find more books like current favorites — a title from the Harry Potter series, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” or “Origami Yoda.” Our librarians always love to connect visitors with engaging books. Adults can expand their reading experiences via Next Reads — a database with suggested titles. Find hard copies of books or look for e-books or downloadable audio books. Kids can investigate additional online books via Tumble Books or BookFlix, a new source for nonfiction titles that pair books with films. Like music? Freegal is an online music resource that provides music lovers with three free songs each week.
Decrease the stress in your life — take time to play. Visit Schlow Library for ideas and to borrow free materials to make “playing” part of every day.