By Sinead Halliday
Many seasons ago, a young Mother watched on from the distance as her firstborn played outside on the back verandah. Beside the arching plain tree, below the dappled shade, it was there that he took his first wobbly footsteps.
As summer traversed into autumn, the boy was walking independently, exploring as he went. He made his way across the yard and plonked himself down in the sandpit. There he remained happily for some time, tinkering with toys. It was in the sandpit, alongside his playgroup friends, that he began to learn the art of language.
Books were what followed. Many afternoons and evenings were spent sharing stories. At playgroup he grew very fond of Benjamin Bunny. Storytime often centred around the imaginative world of Beatrix Potter. The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck were a favourite and both the boy’s. His Mother and Father marvelled at his diction as he started to read parts of the book aloud to them.
The family bond grew, subtly but surely.
The following morning the Father was made proud once more as his son raced by him, kicking the football high into the goals. He had been practicing with his friend while at playgroup.
Tears sprang into the Father’s eyes as he turned to see his son put an arm gently around a young girl crying after she had fallen and scraped her knee. He admired his son, showing empathy and generosity, to somebody he did not even know. The richness of play cannot be undervalued. Intellectual, social, emotional and physical development are all at work while at play. Play is a vital part of learning, especially when young. Complex webs are woven during play; each strand adding to the boy’s knowledge, awareness and skill set.
“We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves or more deeply engrossed in anything than when we are playing,’’ said Charles Schaefer, Psychologist and Author of Play Therapy.
Twenty years later, the boy still fondly remembers the stories of Beatrix Potter; her tales still capture his imagination. He remains friends with members of his playgroup and he loves to read; a gift that he carries with him.
Playgroup became a home away from home for the boy and shaped him in many ways. Such is the power of play and playgroups, dating back through time.