Recently, I read an article on the importance of playtime. Much of the article was centered around the startling statistic that, on average, around 6 years of age is when girls stop thinking that they can be and do anything; perhaps even more upsetting, this is when “they become less likely than boys to see themselves as ‘really, really smart.’”
Needless to say, this line stopped me in my tracks. I re-read it, hoping I was mistaken. I wondered, how can this be? Referred to among researchers as the “Dream Gap,” this phenomenon is evident in developing girls around the world. The article continued on to explore the ways we can encourage girls to continue to dream and to believe that they are capable of anything. One answer? Play.
Often, playtime is one of the only opportunities for a child to explore concepts, roles, and tasks in an unstructured, open-ended way. Whether building, baking, taking care of a baby doll, pretending to be a doctor, or even computer coding, the highest potential of play can create a sense of wonder and curiosity within a child that, ideally, allows them to envision their future as a firefighter, or scientist, or software developer.
I remember when Ryan was about 10 years old, his dream was to be a behavior specialist. Some of you may already know of my deep belief in the power of dreaming. Each of us has dreams: dreams not just for ourselves, but dreams for our loved ones, our children. Of course, they, too, have dreams of their own.
Together, we can close the Dream Gap – we just may have to play for it!
It’s so easy to underestimate the importance of play!