Picture this. It's early Summer. A bright beautiful blue-sky day at the beach. The first beach day all year. You lay out your towel, spray on some sunscreen and maybe wade out into the water. Join up with a volleyball game. Collect shells.
By any and all definitions a day of play. Except for a child.
Children do not "lay out their towels," and when it's time for sunblock most of it ends up in their eyes. For a child, an opportunity for playtime at the beach means Mom's about to go face to face with a dead fish.
That morning when I told my children about all the fun we were going to have at the beach, I know I did not say, "We're going to steal a play shovel from a stranger without asking, run down near the sharp rocks and scoop up dead fish."
Being aware of what a child wants and needs for play isn't easy. Most of the time it's not even intuitive. I'm pretty smart, I read lots of great books on parenting, but I never would have expected a dead fish would be such an irresistible draw to my then three-year-old son. In fact if I saw it first, I would have kicked some sand over it before the kids asked why it was sleeping.
That's why play time is just as important to parents and caregivers as it is to the child. It's a time when the child teaches the parent what life is all about. How he or she sees the world. Don't be too quick to wipe it off.
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