It is a child’s most obvious activity to play. The right to play is also listed as a basic child right and protected through the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. At the same time, research shows that children’s playtime is dramatically reducing in developed and developing countries alike. So, take this blog article as a cry for all parents to let their children play as much as possible. Play is not something they can do after they finished their learning obligations. It is actually the best way for children – and also adults – to learn and the best way to develop their entrepreneurial skills and competences. Learning through play help our children to become creative, actively engaged lifelong learners.
According the latest Future of Jobs Report the 5 of the 10 skills our children, but also young parents of today will work to be successful in the coming decades are analytical thinking and innovation, active learning and learning strategies, critical thinking and analysis, complex problem solving and emotional intelligence, while the need to be good at reading, writing and maths is declining.
Research done with the support of LEGO Foundation defined learning through play as an actively engaging process, a meaningful and socially interactive activity that happens in an iterative way via analysing a situation, solving problems with joy. If you have ever watched children play, you know how resourceful and creative they are when playing. If you look at the “catalogue” of entrepreneurial skills, you will realise that they are more or less the same as skills developed through play. There is no better way for your child to become entrepreneurial than by letting them play and to play with them from time to time.
Joy is an important element in the process that needs to be highlighted separately. There is a general belief that learning is hard work, and many people do not associate learning with joy. This is the reason why parents often make the mistake of telling their children they can play after they finished learning (for school). At the same the Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the world famous Hungarian-American psychologies identified joy as a crucial element in learning. According to his well-known Flow theory he reminds us that learning best happens when you are challenged by a situation or a problem, but not overchallenged, and finding a solution that makes you happy. More joyful than being given a solution or an easy way out.
As a parent, you need to be aware of your role as an educator, and also of the agreement you make with school when you decide to send your child to school. There are domains, mostly traditional academic ones, that school offers to educate your child in, your educating job is not to help with homework or schoolwork (but rather inform the school if your child cannot cope with it on his/her own), but to educate them in other domains. There is plenty of research available that shows the impact of parents on the learning of their children is much bigger than that of the school. Thus, there is a major responsibility for parents to educate their children in these other domain right. And the good news is that the best education you can give them is to let them play.
There is a growing number of initiatives helping parents to become the best educators of their children focusing on play. The Real Play Coalition offers you great ideas for playing with your child. According to their slogan play is rocket fuel for your child. The True Play Advocacy Alliance is working hard to make people understand that play characterized by observable experiences of risk, joy and deep engagement is the deepest manifestation of learning, growth and development.
In their recent book, Let the Children Play, the best known Finnish education expert, Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle interviewed about 50 people considered the leading authorities in education (Parents International Director, Eszter Salamon being one of them), reviewed over 700 pieces of research and visited playful learning experiments and programmes the world over. It all reinforces that play is how children explore, discover, fail, succeed, socialize, and flourish.
So, there is nothing better for parents as educators than letting their children play to foster their creativity, innovation and risk-taking, as well as the ability to plan and direct action toward the achievement of goals, THE most important entrepreneurial skills.