This post was originally published by the  Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

Somehow September is just a few days away and for many kids school is right around the corner.  The long and warm sunny days are giving way to cool and short autumn days, and in the northwest of course, the rain will return.  When the weather starts to turn and the daylight hours dwindle it can become more difficult to encourage kids to go outside and play.  Add in school work for the older kids and many schedules getting busier in the fall and winter – it seems like the opportunities for kids to have uninterrupted play start to dry up.

However, play is the most important thing a kid can do.  Play is where they learn more about their world.  They learn about their friends, they learn how to pretend, and they begin to learn who they are and what they enjoy.  Play is vital to the development of a child and having fun should be a kid’s number one job.  Whether it’s learning how to share when playing with a big group of kids or learning how to be someone different through role play – the lessons that are learned through play stick with them long past childhood. So what’s a parent to do when the school year starts and the daylight hours are fewer?

Take advantage of each little opportunity for play.  Playing sock puppets while getting the kids dressed or being silly by putting pants on their head reminds them that it’s ok to stop and have fun. Going out for a leaf hunt helps kids discover lots of different colors, shapes and textures and can be an early way to start learning to categorize and group objects.  And don’t forget to encourage them to jump into the big pile of leaves you just raked up as a reminder that even chores and responsibilities can be completed with a side of fun.  As children grow older grades, activities and responsibilities can create a lot of pressure and take some of the joy out of being young.  While your main job as a parent is to help guide these little people as they transition into adulthood, another big responsibility is reminding them that it is always ok to take time to have a little fun.

This is fatherhood…