What Does It Mean?

At my job, I spend a lot of my time watching kids play, explore, socialize, talk, and discover. In the words of Maria Montessori, “play is children’s work.” But even more than that, play is a child’s way of exploring the world, and play is work that they truly love. Children’s play—or “games” as we call them at my work—holds more meaning and value than we often realize.

I would like to share several stories about games and events that took place in our classroom. The first is of a little girl playing a game by herself. This girl had recently started Spanish immersion classes. When this story took place, she had been to maybe one or two 45-minute classes. We were in the classroom and I saw her playing by herself. She threw her scarf up into the air, and yelled the word “Bopagamma.” When I approached her and asked her why she was saying that specific word, she told me: “It’s a Spanish word.”

The second story is about a girl who spends time “reading” aloud. After a few days in the classroom, she has been exposed to us, the teachers, reading stories to her and the other kids. She has seen how we read aloud, holding the book up to make sure all the kids can see the pages. One day, I saw her sitting on the couch, holding up a book, and “reading” the words. She was telling a long, elaborate story to a pretend audience. Since then, other kids have started to do this same thing, holding up books and telling us that they are reading to one another.

I want to invite you to take a few minutes and really think about each story’s meaning. Do you get excited about them? If so, how much, and why? What do you think is happening? Are they important to take notice of, or just another game that a child is playing? If you were to draw meaning from these stories, what would it be?

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