Most parents would like to see their child grow up to be confident, to be able to deal with the challenges of everyday life and to get on well with others. So what’s that got to do with play? Well, everything really. Play is exactly how children acquire the skills that we as adults hope they will have in later life. Here are 5 reasons why play is important for children:
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While we all know what play is, it can be hard to define. The term play covers a very broad range of activities freely chosen and enjoyed by a child.
Play can be loud, rowdy and energetic or quiet, relaxed and reflective; it can be light hearted or focused and quite serious; planned and structured or free flowing and inventive. Either way play is a vital part of every child’s life and is essential to their development.
Play is how children explore and learn about the world around them and how they acquire the skills to live in the world. The most beneficial play is initiated by the child. During free play is when most learning takes place. Here are just 5 of the many reasons why play is important.
Why Play is Important
#1. Learning about the World
Toddlers act out real life and fantasy through role play as a way of understanding the world they live in and the things they experience every day.
Children learn to understand the space around them through play, developing spatial awareness and acquiring new skills even just through running, jumping and skipping. Play also teaches children how to deal the realities of setbacks and disappointments.
#2. Developing the Ability to Assess Risk
Play allows children to consider problems and develop solutions. By testing their own abilities children learn to take a risk and try something new as well as figuring out ways to do things differently.
Many recent reports have highlighted the dangers of not allowing children to be adventurous in play. Taking risks and doing something “scary” allows a child to test its boundaries.
During play, children are in charge, instinctively making hundreds of decisions as they assess and determine the levels of risk they want to take, physically, emotionally and socially.
In this way they build up their skills and their bank of experience and are better equipped to “stay safe” in the real world. This might mean a few grazed elbows and knees along the way but how better to learn what not to do the next time!
#3. Developing Social Skills
Playing alone fosters independent thinking and problem solving while group play encourages cooperation and understanding. Playing with other children allows a child to develop a sense of his or her place in a group.
Taking turns to use a slide is an important part of developing the ability to interact well with others and to care about others. Group play also develops the ability to co-operate, to function as part of a team.
Planning activities and assigning roles in games mimics in many ways the real world of family and work life. Learning to share and to consider the abilities of others is another important “life skill” acquired through play.
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#4. Physical Development
Play is an essential part of a child’s physical development. A child is continually learning through play and this leads to the growth and maturation of his brain and body, building the ability to concentrate and “learning how to learn”.
Physical development includes acquiring balance and co-ordination, gross and fine motor skills as well as strength and muscle.
Toddlers develop their gross motor skills through play which are then refined as they grow older. One study has shown that playing tennis improved a group of children’s handwriting ability.
Painting and drawing can help develop fine manipulative skills because of the nature of the movement involved in these activities.
Physical strength is also developed through play – climbing trees is an excellent way to develop upper body strength while jumping builds bone strength. Even lifting, carrying, stretching and balancing will develop muscular strength and flexibility.
Less robust play will develop dexterity and flexibility while spinning stimulates the physiological development of a child’s vestibular (inner ear balance) system.
#5. Building Confidence
In this way children understand that they can do more, do new things and they acquire the confidence to try new things.
Playing gives a child a sense of being in control and being able to take charge – even it’s commanding an army of toy soldiers or a doll’s tea party!
Over to you now. What are your thoughts on why play is important for children? Share them with us in the comments below.