My daughter, Carrie, is one of those kids who could play with dirt. She could entertain herself for hours with only her thoughts. As a teenager, that can mean extra time in the bathroom as she does her hair in a variety of styles! When my children were young, I was told that you could give them a box and that would be just as good as the toy inside. Dr. Healy has this to say about toys, "a good toy is 90 percent child and 10% toy, but children's play today has those percentages reversed." (p. 341)
What do children learn through their play? They learn to interact with others, to recognize and solve problems, and to feel the sense of mastery that results. Today's children have games and sports galore, but they are structured and have adult imposed rules. They need to explore on their own. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods has a prescription for play. "Take your kids outside to walk on grass, not pavements, see the sky, inhale brain-restoring oxygen, soak up natural hormones stimulated by sunlight and roam freely in the natural world." Children seem to gain the most positive benefits from nature when they are permitted to explore and enjoy according to their own inclinations - not under the rule-based adult structure imposed on, for example, a soccer field.
In Kindermusik we are always asking the children for their ideas. We listen to sounds from the city: cars honking & sirens, then we give the children a paper plate or a hoop. They take the prop, and decide how to incorporate it into their play. The object is no long the major focus, but taking the object into play in which meanings and goals are assigned by him. Through these type of experiences the children discover that every object has unlimited possibilities, and their imagination stretched to new limits. A child's work becomes play when their imaginations are engaged