Play is the serious work of childhood. In play, children learn to experience the possibilities of life. Through imaginative play, children create the world anew each day, and try on every imaginable situation within it. They build houses, shops, rockets and fire engines using the simplest of materials: logs and stumps, stones and shells, cloths and play stands. Out of this simplicity of the materials, the child’s flexibility of imagination is inspired to grow active and strong. The play world can change from moment to moment -- a car becomes a shop, becomes a ship, becomes a home.
There is a qualitative difference between imaginative, constructive, transformative play from play that looks more like “wild” behavior. It is this kind of constructive play that is supported and encouraged in a Waldorf kindergarten setting. This quality of play sometimes needs guidance or other teacher input, but for the most part it comes naturally to the child, especially when media exposure is strongly limited.
In the course of play, growth in all areas is stimulated –physical, emotional, social, mental and spiritual. As has been confirmed by a growing body of neurological research, such open-ended imaginative play that comes out of the child’s inner life and individual capacities lays a foundation for imaginative thinking in the adolescent and adult. A child who has “played outside the box” is developing the resources to literally “think outside the box” as an adult. Play stimulates an interest in all aspects of life, and becomes a seed to be cultivated through academic studies in the elementary grades and beyond.