I came home yesterday and found my son plopped in front of the television watching a war movie - not ideal entertainment for a two year old! After my initial panic, I turned off the TV and we started to play with his building blocks.
I observed in shock as he started pitting blocks against each other, crashing them into one another and making machine gun like noises. He directly took the violence on television and was acting it out with his toys. It is amazing what children pick up from their environments and how quickly they simulate it into action, even when they don't really grasp the meaning of the gestures.
I immediately stormed toward my computer to ask Google what to do about this (aside from the obvious: restricting violent TV). A quick search of the Internet suggested that kids under 5 learn most from watching and imitating. The most common way they simulate this information is through play. In fact, if you watch a child play you will get all kinds of clues to their behavior, what they are exposed to and what the nanny does with them during the day.
When I am a guest speaker for teachers, I always promote the power of humor and play in the classroom and other situations when teaching and learning. This is another valuable layer of that basic precept. Children who can't speak in full sentences play, and through that play they learn. Quickly.
Imagine the implications this has in the workplace. Our primal ability to play may still be the quickest way for us to learn but with all the seriousness and pressure of the typical workplace, it gets pounded out of us.
I was a guest speaker at a teacher conference over a decade ago where one of the keynote speakers was Barbara Coloroso, child advocate and popular motivational speaker at teacher conferences.
The keynote speaker suggested that you can't force a child to do anything, but you can allow them to experience the consequences of their actions. When children are upset they usually revert to play. When adults are upset we often revert to violence or some kind of distraction like food or alcohol. It would be kinder and smarter if adults could, instead, be distracted from stress and pain and get lost in the moment - with play.