Why Your Child Needs to Play

Play is a way to explore and learn

There is no doubt that play is one of the most important ways through which children learn about the world. When children play with adults and other children, they learn how to get along with others, to problem solve, and how to communicate and use language effectively. Piaget’s constructivism is rooted in stimulating interest, initiative, experimentation, discovery, play, and imagination as fundamental to the development of a child’s capacity to learn. Play, in particular, can unite imagination and intellect in more than one way, and help children discover things at their own pace and in their own way.

Play is the way children learn new skills, and language is one of the most important skills that children learn while they play. Playing around with other kids in various environments literally sets the basic stones for kids to learn, practice, and create a safe space for expressing their own selves. There is no better education for a child than to allow them to play!

Play changes as child develops and helps child to develop

Play develops as children develop. First they might put everything in their mouth, or just throw toys. This is their way of experimenting and learning how different objects feel and taste. Next they build with blocks and play with cars and trains. They learn that different objects go together, and that objects have names, and you can play with them in a variety of different ways. While playing, children can learn nouns from the names of things, verbs from what objects do or action words and how to describe things. They learn to explore objects and understand more about them through the senses. Parents play a very important role in giving their child the words they need. When you join in play with your child, you can provide these important words.

Play is part of the fundamental learning process of childhood, and playing with other children helps a child develop the social skills necessary for living and working with others as they make their way through life. Through play and engagement with others, children make critical connections in their developing brains. When children don’t have an opportunity to play, or to play with other children, their cognitive, social, and emotional development can be affected negatively. Anyone who spends any amount of time with young children understands that providing them with opportunities for play provides so much more than a few minutes or hours of ‘fun’. Children learn through all their senses through taste, touch, vision, hearing and smelling. They will watch those around them and copy language and behaviour. Play also allows children to relax, let off steam, develop social skills such as concentration and co-operation, encourages the development of the imagination, develops motor skills and teaches self- expression.

Play can take place in various settings and various forms. Pretend play, for instance, is essential to a child’s social and development and can play a large part in their physical development too. Children make sense of the world in which they live by acting out situations before they happen and by copying what they see around them. Pretend play contributes to a child’s emotional development as they learn to see life from a different viewpoint and allows them to ‘trial’ situations before they happen. Most children are naturally imaginative and will happily talk away to someone on their toy phone or drive the sofa to the shops, and this creativity should be actively encouraged! This type of play also develops children’s imaginations which are closely linked to intellectual and cognitive development.

Additionally, encouraging your young child to explore outdoor play is extremely beneficial and necessary for their development. Outdoor play helps them to learn lots about the everchanging environment and gives them the opportunity to use their whole body and develop their gross motor skills. It can meet their multi-sensory needs and can give them a love for the outdoors. Whether it is messy play, creative or role play, it is an essential part of learning. Play is vital for cognitive, as well as overall holistic development of a child. It exercises fundamental skills such as attention and memory, and helps to learn and exercise essential social communication skills that can only be picked up through real-world learning. In games like “pakdam pakdai” and hide-and-seek, players have to read each other’s body language, facial expressions and non-verbal clues. Every aspect of a child is simultaneously engaged, with cognitive skills such as planning, problem solving, impulse control, attention, memory, and executive functioning skills, social and emotional skills which allow a child to engage with a group and understand rule-based games, receptive and expressive language, gross motor skills and much more.

Play helps in connecting and understanding relationships 

Relationship-building is a process of establishing emotional connections with others, starting from birth, which are based on trust and intimacy. Through relationships, children discover who they are and learn to understand others. When young children experience people helping, understanding, and enjoying them, they approach the world with openness and enthusiasm, and they grow to be responsive and caring people. Babies are born with a drive to relate to and connect with others, and they continue to develop the social skills necessary to form strong, healthy relationships throughout their lives. Take a newborn for instance. A newborn gazes at her mother’s face as she breastfeeds. She recognizes her mother as the special, loving person who is always there for her, and calms down almost immediately when her mother picks her up and holds her close. This baby is learning that she is loved and that she can trust others to care for her and treat her well. Later on, an infant laughs during a game of peek-a-boo and discovers that spending time together is satisfying and pleasurable. In another scenario, toddler sees her brother fall off his bicycle and begin crying. She runs over and starts to rub his back, as she’s observed a parent to do. This toddler is learning how to empathize with, or understand, another’s feelings and experiences.

Play is fun for your child and gives him an opportunity to explore, observe, experiment, solve problems and learn from his mistakes. He needs your support and encouragement to do this. But it’s important to try to find a balance between helping him and letting him make mistakes, because finding out for himself about the world is a big part of learning. Lots of time spent playing, talking, listening and interacting with you helps your child learn the skills she needs for life, like communicating, thinking, solving problems, moving and being with other people and children.

But more than this, play is a great relationship builder. Spending time playing with your child sends a simple message – you’re important to me. This message helps your child learn about who he is and where he fits in the world. Play breaks down barriers. It breaks down barriers on the playground. It breaks down barriers inside us. And it breaks down barriers in the home. Play breaks down barriers. It breaks down barriers on the playground. It breaks down barriers inside us. And it breaks down barriers in the home. In a parent-child dynamic, having only disciplinary or authoritative communication does not relate to being a good parent. Letting down your guard and engaging with your kid on their level further solidifies the bond, and also teaches them how to interact with other adults in a polite manner.

A simple game of peekaboo is a great example of how relationships, play and time together help with all areas of a baby’s development.When you play peekaboo with your baby, you hide your face behind your hands and pop out again. Your baby probably reaches out her arms, giggles and smiles. It’s your baby’s way of saying, ‘Keep playing – this is fun!’ You keep going, and your baby is happy. But after a while, your baby might look away. That’s her way of saying she’s had enough play for now. You know it’s time to take a break.

Simple interactive games, such as peek-a-boo, lay the basis for a baby’s language, thinking, motor skills, and social and emotional development.  Warm and loving interactions between you and your child develop your child’s confidence, resilience and communication. This prepares your child for things he’ll come across later in life, like working through problems, dealing with stress and forming healthy relationships with other people in adolescence and adulthood. Strong attachments and relationships early in life also mean your child is more likely to have better mental health and fewer behaviour problems. By building a warm, positive and responsive relationship with your child, you’re helping shape the adult she’ll become and giving her a strong foundation for the rest of her life.

Play is fun and easy!

Play doesn’t require expensive or elaborate materials. In actuality, it’s very natural and simple, wherein even the most ordinary and unlikely of objects can be used. For example, pots and pans, a blanket or even just your hands or clothes for “peek-a-boo”, and a tub with water, rice or sand are wonderful tools for play and language development. A simple object such as a marker can be used in many ways. A marker can be drawn with, spun, tossed, rolled, hidden, used as pretend nail paint, tucked inside clothing or used as a poking device… the possibilities are seemingly endless! In most cases, objects aren’t even required! You can simply play rough and tumble, tickling or anticipatory, or even movement-based games with your child, and they’ll be sure to enjoy it. Parents are the best toys, and children will learn a lot of language when they share play activities with their parents

In short, play is driven by the children’s interests, questions, and the world that they live in.  The materials available for play add to the children’s play in meaningful ways.  The opportunity for children to create their own play and explorations helps to develop independence and creative thinking.  As child guide their own play, social interactions take place and relationships are built.  Play is the means through which a child’s foundation is built. Language is developed, math and science is explored, creativity and art go hand in hand, nature finds its way into many play scenarios and explorations, and the culture of others in discovered in meaningful ways.  Play is therefore an enabler for a child to develop and attain their true potential.