My Connections to Play

Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.
Henri Matisse
French painter

I was an only, the first grandchild and niece for the first 4.5 years of my life.  Most of my childhood was spent with adults and what I loved most was playing wrestling with my uncles.  I remember watching the matches with them and then learning the moves.  The fake body slams, dives off the ropes and chair slams.  
With only one aunt, I was destined to fall for the boy toys.  I loved Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk and Batman.  My dad taught me to play marbles and my mom took me outside and taught me to love the outdoors.   

My mom taught me how to make wonderful art creations on the sidewalk including hopscotch which I became a champion at in Kindergarten.

I actually learned to play other games with the jump rope before learning to jump rope.  We played games such as jump the river, snakes, twirl the rope and she taught me several rope tricks.

At 5 I got two wonderful new playthings.  They quickly became my favorites as I spent countless hours reading to them and teaching them.  
"We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” 
When I look at children today, their ideal of play and think about my own childhood the differences are astonishing.  One of the saddest days in my life as a teacher was when I realized that the children in my then kindergarten class (they're fifth graders now) didn't know how to play simple outdoor games.  I decided to have an old fashioned game day for the children.  We played all of my childhood favorites, which my parents spent countless hours teaching me, hula hoop, jump rope, marbles, jacks, hopscotch.  The children had a great time and we had more game days that year.  
Play, for me, was a time to connect to my family, it was something that we did together.  There was no, "Go to your room and play" because then rooms were used for sleeping at the end of the day.  Even when we watched television it was a family event and stories were read more than just at bedtime.  Today play is Playstation, Ninetendo, Ipad, 4G and facebook.On the plus side there are quite a few games that are family oriented and most of them require active play rather than stationary play.  It may seem that I am very down on technology but I'm not, I love it and enjoy the benefits of it but I also feel that children don't just play enough. They are missing out on the simple joys of running in the streets so to speak.  
As an educator my hope for children is that they learn the true rewards of playing and enjoying life.  I try to do my small part everyday both at home and at work.  I search for things to do around town and then call around to invite my cousins.  Sometimes we do nothing more than go to the park or an extracurricular activity they want to do but don't have anyone to take them to.  At work, I go into every classroom and try to do something with the children.  One of my favorite things is to sing and dance with the two year olds and now the children actually look forward to it. One day just a few weeks ago, I walked into the twos and one little boy, who used to be fairly quite, came to me and said, "Hey Tresa, I want to dance."  That's what every day should be like, children should enjoy playing and we should do what we can to encourage that playful spirit.  

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