When your child plays, they learn about themselves and their surroundings. This includes how to coordinate their body movements, talk with friends, apply rules, and more. But the learning process is even broader than this.
THE BENEFITS OF PLAY
Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. It is important to healthy brain development and it is through play that children, at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master by conquering their fears while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers. As they master their world, play helps children develop new competencies that lead to the enhanced confidence and resilience they need to face future challenges.
Undirected play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills. When play is allowed to be child driven, children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover their own areas of interest, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue.
Ideally, much of play involves adults, but when play is controlled by adults, children acquiesce to adult rules and concerns and lose some of the benefits their undirected play offers them, particularly in developing creativity, leadership, and group skills.
In contrast to passive entertainment such as watching TV, play builds active, healthy bodies. In fact, it has been suggested that encouraging unstructured play may be an exceptional way to increase physical activity levels in children. (An important strategy in the resolution of the obesity epidemic.). Perhaps above all, play is a simple joy that is a cherished part of childhood.
So, if you didn’t realize it before, now you know that play is a lot more than you may think; it is a way for your child to familiarize themselves with the world while exploring and testing their own limits. At the same time, they are engaged in an activity that provides them enjoyment or amusement. Play helps them learn about things such as the earthworm they find on the ground, how to avoid arguments with others, their favorite make believe character during role play or that mom doesn’t like when they yell inside the house. Promoting playtime helps your child learn about their skills and abilities, while interacting with others and their surroundings.
PLAY BEGINS IN INFANCY
When a baby studies and interacts with the things around them, whether this is by putting a toy in their mouth or touching a new textured object, they are “playing.” Part of exploring their environment also includes figuring out how to get your attention such as when your baby coos or babbles at you. It is important to remember that playtime helps your baby to continuously master and reinforce concepts that become important milestones in their development.
- As your child continues to play throughout their childhood, they develop a number of skills, such as: problem solving skills
- Showing an ability to think flexibly
- Practicing and processing their emotions
- Facing their fears
- Trying new things without fear of failure
Through play, older children discover their own interests and passions. Your child may find they have a love for a specific activity such as art or acting, or possibly for an animal or character. Playtime will encourage them to continue exploring their own interests and build skills they will use in the future.
All children should have time for play. It is the one of the building blocks for establishing confidence, learning coping skills, flexibility and creating positive interactions with others. All of these are essential skills that your child will apply to their life as they develop into a young adult.