I know my family, especially when my children were young, was rarely at home. Dinner was often fast food served in the car while going from one place to another. Family dinners during the week were rare and after homework, there wasn’t much time to play. During this time at home, many families are finding themselves with time for family dinners and play. Kids (and even parents) are asking: Where can we go? What can I do now? On day 2 or 3 of staying home my daughters (ages 18 and 25) were discussing whether or not they should get out the blocks and plastic animals and my son (age 22) was getting out the Hot Wheels. Blocks and plastic animals were my kids favorite toy. The blocks were made by a friend from scraps of wood and the animals, small plastic ones from Wal-Mart, were easily the least expensive toys we owned. When they were younger they would all play together building zoos and cities. We had all kinds of other toys but they always went back to the blocks. Those blocks could become anything they imagined. They didn’t make noises or take batteries.
The thing we often forget is that through play, our imaginations can take us anywhere we want to go. In our society play is seen as something frivolous. Something to do when your serious work or chores are complete. “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning,” Fred Rogers said. “But for children, play is serious learning.” Children, especially young children, learn by doing. When children play, they often mimic what they have seen. They play house, family, office and school. They dress up and pretend to be doctors, princesses and super heroes. They pretend to build roads and buildings. I’m often disappointed with the toys I see available. They all take batteries and make sounds. This eliminates the need for a child to make the noises and sounds themselves. A fire truck can only be a fire truck, but a block can be a fire truck, a building, an animal or a person. How often do we see a child become more interested in the box a toy came in than the toy itself?
Imaginary play is critical to social and emotional development. It gives children a safe place to explore what they have learned. When playing with other children, they learn to take turns, to share, to respect other’s opinions, to follow rules and to resolve conflict. Imaginary play teaches children to become problem solvers. Einsten said, “Imagination
is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution”. Think where we would be if Henry Ford hadn’t imagined a horseless carriage or Thomas Edison hadn’t imagined a light-bulb. We’ve sent men to the moon because someone imagined we could go there. Where would the great works of art and music be if it wasn’t for the artist’s or composer’s imagination?
While staying at home isn’t easy, it does give us an opportunity to slow down, read, play and use our imaginations. Give your child time for unstructured play. Give them materials to build and create. Read great stories to imagine themselves in magical places. Dr. Seuss said it best, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” Explore the outdoors. The imagination is limitless and you can do anything and go anywhere!
With having so much extra time at home due to the Coronavirus Covid 19, I found myself reading more, doing some much needed de-cluttering and watching more movies. Two of those movies were about Mister Fred Rogers. A lot of you won’t know who I am talking about, some of you might remember him from Comedy Skits and others just might not have been a fan. But as I watched these movies, I found myself wondering how he would have confronted all that is gong on in our world today. Things that happened in the world were brought into Mister Rogers Neighborhood where he believed in meeting conflict head on. He taught with soft spoken, direct simple short questions and then silence. Through the part of the neighborhood called the World of Make Believe, Mister Rogers would use puppets to demonstrate conflict, understanding, acceptance and healing.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned from him but here are some of my favorite Mister Rogers-isms:
How great our world could be if we could only instill in our kids and in ourselves a little bit of Mister Rogers’ belief that everyone is beautifully unique and special with our own unique and special gifts we bring into the world. And in these unique and special qualities in each of us, we offer kindness, acceptance and healing. That would be a beautiful thing!
4 Ways Mister Rogers Forged Deep Relationships With Everyone He Met, By: Graham Winfrey
17 Quotes From Mister Rogers The World Really Needs Right Now, By: Delaney Strunk
Movie: “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Noah Harpster, Tom Junod
Documentary: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”