By Debbie Ayala

Typically when adults think of work, they think of hard things and when they think of play they think of easy things.  Additionally, adults work because they have to, and play when they have free or leisure time.  For children this is not the case.  They do choose to work and do hard things and for some reason, what they do is called play.


In her book, Discovery of the Child, Maria Montessori gives this scenario;Imagine you are walking along a beach.  Ahead, you see a small child using a hand held shovel and filling a child sized wagon with sand.  It would not be surprising to see that as soon as it was filled, the child would dump the sand out and begin filling it again.  What would happen if you tried to take the shovel and do the activity for the child?  They would most likely be offended and cling to their shovel fearing that you might try to take it, or that you would stop them from their ‘work’.


On the other hand imagine coming upon a grown man in a similar setting filling a large wagon with sand. Can you envision this adult dumping all of the sand out when it is full, just to begin filling it again?  Of course not!  And how would he feel if you offered to do it for him? He might be surprised or even skeptical, but he would definitely be in favor of help.  He would not feel offended that you were stopping his work.

Jean Piaget said, “play is the work of childhood”. Albert Einstein said,  “play is the highest form of research”.
And finally Fred Rogers said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning.


In a free environment, children play.  This is how they learn to do hard things.

Posted January 28, 2022


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