An Imaginary Cell Phone and the Importance of Play

The Imaginary Cell Phone

Oh, the imagination of a four year old!

One day, one of my K4 friends brought a cell phone to class.  Now this was not a cast off phone from mom and dad, but a cell phone made out of a cereal box.  Nothing elaborate, just a rectangle in shape and folded in half; this was the days of “flip phones.”   She was having so much fun on this phone, making phone calls and texting.  I decided to play along in her imaginary world.

“Lily, I’m afraid you’ll have to put your cell phone away.  It keeps ringing and disturbing the class.” (Something I never thought I would say in my classroom.)

“Ok, Miss Missy, I’ll just put it on vibrate.” 

This imaginary behavior continued all day long.  I told my son about the imaginary phone, and he decided to play along as well.

“Lily, I have been calling all day and you didn’t answer!” to which she replied, “Jordan, I was taking a nap and couldn’t”.

Later she came out on the playground, cell phone in hand, laughing. I said, “Lily, what is so funny!”  She replied, “That Jordan just sent me a text!

At the end of the day when it was time to go home, Lily was disappointed when she realized she was going to have to go to supervision to be picked up by her mom later.  I said, “Lily, why don’t you call your mom on your cell phone and see when she can come and get you?”  Lily looked at me rather exasperated and replied, “Miss Missy, you know it is not a real phone!”

Cultivating the Imagination

My K4 friend knew what it was like to have a good imagination. Today, however, I fear that our children are not learning how to cultivate their imagination. Great imaginations are developed though free play.  According to Dr. Jean Feldman, an early childhood educational expert, “play is not a luxury, but is essential to healthy social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.  Children have a lifetime to sit in front of a computer and do worksheets.  They have one chance in a lifetime to be a little child and play joyfully and spontaneously and fully!!!”

As parents, we are overly consumed with the academic rigors of school with little emphasis on play.  Often we will let children “play” on computers, or have educational games, with the thought that we are stimulating the brain.  Sometimes our child’s play is adult organized sports or play dates.  Many times our lifestyle is just too busy to allow for play.  Some of our children’s lives are so scheduled that they don’t even know how to entertain themselves.  At this point, if we are truly honest, we must admit that we let our children watch too much TV and play too many video games.

Now you may be thinking, “Miss Missy, are we to get rid of our computers , TV’s, and video games and not let our children play on sports teams, so that they can play?”  My answer is absolutely not!  But please make time for play in your child’s day.  Play is a child’s work.

According to Ellen Booth Church, “Your child not only learns skills through play, but  also builds their brain; stimulating play-based experiences in the early years contribute to the actual structure and capacity of your child’s brain. Happily, the more your child plays, the more they make connections in the brain between what they know and what they are discovering.  And perhaps best of all, playing with you and other trusted adults creates the positive and secure relationships that build the brain cells your child will use later in school and in life. Your playful interactions with your child shape their ability to learn—so play!”

Let Them Play!

The beauty of play is it doesn’t have to be expensive.  Can you remember back to your childhood when you turned a refrigerator box into a rocket traveling to the moon, or your favorite blanket became the cape of your favorite super hero?   My favorite memories of my own children was when they took every blanket in the house and built a fort for themselves and all of their stuffed animals.  The bottom line is, give your child the opportunity and time to play.  It stimulates brain growth, develops those language and social skills, and helps them to think critically and become problem solvers.  But, most importantly — it is a fun part of being the child that God created them to be!!

So go have fun and play!!!!