It’s likely that you and I grew up in the same neighborhood. You know the one: it had a tall red brick building, a bright yellow bakery, a lavender music shop, and a two-story brown apartment building. Perhaps it doesn’t yet sound familiar? Well, every weekday a big yellow school bus and a shiny red trolley passed by. Oh, and our favorite neighbor? He lived in the little yellow house at the end of the street. His name was Mister Rogers.
One of the things I most loved about growing up in this neighborhood was the “make believe” it inspired. After watching an episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” my sister, brother and I invariably recreated whatever it was we had just seen. If the neighborhood had learned about music, we’d make instruments out of oatmeal tubs and rubber bands. If the neighborhood had learned about the local bakery, we’d pull out the playdough so we could create pastries, doughnuts, and muffins. And if our fancy ran with a story from the magical “neighborhood of make-believe,” then out came the puppets.
We didn’t realize the value of such play when we were young. Fred Rogers himself said that “play is really the work of childhood.” This work of childhood is developmentally essential. It helps the child make sense of the world around him and his place in that world. This month, we’ll look at the fundamental role this work plays in a child’s exploration, expression, and preparation.