When my children were in elementary school, our house was the house where several neighborhood children gathered after school. Often, children were in our yard for four evenings a week. As the neighbors were over, I listened to the games and play that kept the children engaged for hours at a time. What I heard with particular newly created games was a give-and-take of negotiating about what the rules are. They patiently spoke and compromised on how to follow the game.
The games could be anything from snow fights, hide-and-seek, tag, Star Wars, or anything they wanted to create. My son and his friend thoroughly discussed possibilities of winning and defeat. There were things that were not okay such as hitting, kicking....
Imaginative play was a constant part of the time at our house. We had a long driveway, so the children made up hopscotch games (a bit varied from the real game). They also created a sidewalk chalk town and drove the pedal toys around to the different parts of town to do business, order food, and park. Of course, this was all pretend, but the more acceptable it was to be creative, the more creative they became. The kids kept expanding their creativity.
What is so important about this? The kids were never on technology while at our house. They created their own fun and entertained themselves. Not only was imagination encouraged and natural for them, they also learned skills such as teamwork, compromise, assertiveness, and fairness. They learned sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Don't cheat. Life isn't always fair. They can't always call the shots and get their way, yet everyone can be friends and get along. So many life skills.
Those years have come to an end, but fun and play in the back yard taught lessons that I see these children use in life. Don't underestimate the value of play. Having too much structure for children lessens the opportunity to imagine and create. Having both structured activity and creative play is a better balance.
Bless all parents, educators, grandparents, and siblings.
Rhoda G. Penny