Friday, October 8, 2021

Play Deprivation During The Pandemic


TADA...The winner of our giveaway of What the Cluck?  is Dorothy W.

14 years ago, I wrote this statement as part of my education philosophy.

“I believe in the power of play (think of anyone you know who has lost their passion for life and they’ve probably forgotten how to play.)

I believe in learning through wonder, exploration, and discovery (think of anyone you know who is a lifelong learner, and they’re probably driven by wonder, exploration, and discovery rather than thinking of learning as a task that must be completed.)” 

Indeed, play has always been a driving force in my life as a teacher and a writer.  As I reflect on my journey through education, I realize that I am not the stereotype.  I did not come to teaching because I thought I could change the world. I was not particularly fond of children.  I did not feel like I had ideas to impart on young minds. I realize that I am drawn to teaching 5-year-olds because I love to play.  I am Peter Pan and the students that frolic and romp  along with me are the “lost boys (and girls)”  

I have spent the past 30+ years avoiding growing up.  Instead, I arrive each day to the spontaneous joy, enchantment, and wonder of those who are experts at playing.  Don’t get me wrong, it is hard work to preserve this quality and protect it against those who might squelch it. 

This year I have watched as my students have struggled to find their footing.  I’ve noticed that it is taking longer.  They are less mature than years past and I wonder how the pandemic has affected their opportunities to play. 

 I imagine that the impact has been great.  

They came into the shutdowns when they were 3 ½.  Just when play with their peers was becoming prominent.  

I have noticed a lag.  

Much of our day is spent playing together. There is much healing to be done and I believe in the power of play.  

Recently, I find that I too have been deprived of opportunities to play for the past 19 months. There are few, if any gatherings.  Many of my friends are not venturing out spontaneously. I have attended countless meetings, conferences, and workshops on Zoom.  I spend many more hours than I ever have, in my apartment with the television keeping me company.   I have forgotten how it feels to wander aimlessly in lands unknown.   

With this loss of adventure, my creativity has waned noticeably.   Days go by and I am resisting sitting down to write.  Ideas are blocked,  a big, giant void. The joy is just not there. As I write this, it is taking me great effort to hear the words to put on the page.  It’s painful.

I wonder, why am I struggling to write? Where has my creativity gone, and will it return? Why does the sun shine a little less brightly? Why are my senses dulled?  

And then it dawns on me.  I have ceased to play as an artist.  I have stopped answering the call of spontaneity, wonder, and curiosity. I have ceased to explore and discover. 

Where is my passion? Is this my new normal? Is this what the pandemic has left in its wake? Can I pull this back from the brink and restore my imagination?  Is it me?  Are there others around me? Are there others out in the world? Are we experiencing a collective lull? Will we recover and heal? 

Yes, I believe we will. I’m hopeful that the opportunities of joy and delight will return and bring creativity back with them. For those of us whose inspiration has been affected by play deprivation, I believe that eventually we will find the power of play…again.

Posted by Zeena M. Pliska

Author of :

Hello, Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story Illustrated by Fiona Halliday  Page Street Kids

Egyptian Lullaby Illustrated by Hatem Aly Roaring Brook Press (coming Winter 2023)

For more info about me click here



Margaret Simon said...

I agree about the power of play. I also think that making poetry playful, students are more willing to try. I am worried about all the digital screens dulling our students' senses. They need to be outside more. Thanks for this thoughtful post.

zeena said...

I also worry about the overuse of screen time. I rue the day I bought my child a cell phone.

Tina Cho said...

Great post, Zeena! I, too, have an immature kindergarten class that needs to learn how to get along w/each other. We have Choice Time every afternoon in which they play. And I love the analogy that we adults are needing play time to be more creative!

Mary Ann Rodman said...

Zeena--I'm sure there are a lot of us writers who agree with you, that the pandemic has stolen our sense of play. In a time of disaster, our inner-five-year-old is more concerned with survival. Yet, it's the curiosity and spontaneity of that inner kindergartner that makes us writers. This is hard for us as writers; it's devastating for a child, for whom play is integral to human development. No answers here. I think we'll be seeing the effects of this time for years to come.

P. Marin said...

I have always been a big fan of play. I’m grateful for you bringing it back into focus:) xo

April Halprin Wayland said...

You're so right, Zeena--PLAY! Thank you for reminding me that it's okay to incorporate it in my day...and that playing does NOT mean I'm wasting time.

zeena said...

Thanks for all your wonderful comments. It validates me when I reaalize that my kindergarteners are spending way more time playing than learning their abc's.