The Power of Play

Today is Thursday, which is one of T’s favorite days of the week. First, it’s a school day, and he just loves school (thank goodness). But second and more importantly, it’s Power Play Day!

I wrote yesterday about how T gets his free play on at all our local parks, but as an added bonus, every week he’s enrolled in an organized, gross-motor play class called Power Play Kids’ Gym. The best way to describe Power Play is that the teacher (Miss Jodie) pulls up to school with her pick-up truck full of gymnastic equipment and gear, rolls it out on school grounds, and sets up an outdoor gymnasium circuit. Her standard routine and instruction includes balance beam, hoops for the kids to hopscotch through, a floor exercise, and spring boards for the kids to jump over obstacles. And the best part about all this outdoor play – Miss Jodie powers up the kids with high-energy but kid-friendly music for them to dance and run their way through the course.

Miss Jodie sets up a tug-o-war match during a Power Play class.

The other wonderful thing about Power Play is the program’s inclusion of many of the traditional childhood-centered games that we all grew up playing ourselves as kids. For example, Miss Jodie dedicated one class almost entirely to multiple tug-o-war matches between different groups of kids. She mixed and mingled the kids in different ways (boys vs. girls, lined up everyone by size and alternated picking team members, lined up kids by age and classroom and again alternated the selections to even out the teams, etc.) and pitted them against one another on the soft, grassy lawn of the school grounds. The kids had so much fun playing a game that otherwise would not really be accessible to a group of three- to six-year-olds really (because a pick-up tug-o-war game at the park, not so much for this age group).

Miss Jodie also sends the kids home weekly with a Power Play “move” to practice and show off to friends and family. This is one of my favorite things because although this might be considered homework, it’s homework I have no problem with. It’s fun, it’s something T can teach us to do, and we all have fun doing the Power Play moves at home, just not on furniture or beds. No, really, Miss Jodie reminds the kids weekly that they are to stay off the furniture when practicing Power Play at home (thanks, Miss Jodie!). And strangely enough, it sort-of works (probably because it’s not our idea in telling T to get off the furniture but someone else’s).

T plays a cat-and-mouse game where he prowls on top of the parachute as the cat and "catches" kid-mice scurrying about underneath.

Frankly, I love this class. What I love most about it is that T’s been introduced to such physical games in a safe, fun atmosphere and at such a young age. I honestly believe that kids of all ages benefit not just from free gross motor exercise but they also thrive in a safe, structured environment where they can channel some of the more intense energy and feelings that aren’t exactly socially appropriate (you know the ones: no hitting, kicking, pushing, grabbing others) on equipment and not other kids or themselves. And while I am all for organized team sports (I played them all through my youth from ages 7-17), I really just don’t think that this age group can gain all the benefits from those outlets just yet – way too many rules to learn and listen to, and way, WAY too much competition (usually from the parents and other adults involved, but that’s another discussion for another day).

I am so glad Power Play lands on a day T attends school, but even if it didn’t, I still think I’d seek out this class. It’s a nominal fee (works out to about $12/ week for one 35 minute session), and it’s something that I’ve seen far-reaching benefits from in the several months that T’s attended.

I’ve searched high and low to find a website for our Power Play course (we pay monthly by written check to the teacher directly, believe it or not – I know, total throw-back!), but I can’t seem to locate anything. When and if I do, I will post what I find out. Until then, if your preschool or local parks and recreation department offers something similar for this age-range, please post the information.