More than Just Fun: The Importance of Play in Early Childhood Development
“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.” -Leo F. Buscaglia
Truly, play is often considered as a simple form of distraction for children, and although it may seem like that from an adult’s point of view, play has a much more important function in children development. Actively taking part in playing contributes to children’s physical, mental, social and emotional development, and therefore it should be encouraged by both parents and educators. Despite of these benefits, the amount of time kids spend playing each day has decreased considerably in the last couple of decades, which raises a lot of concern. That’s why it can’t hurt stressing out over and over again just how vital playing is for kids.
Play Is the Bridge to Proper Physical Development
Playing almost always includes physical activity, from building towers with blocks to riding a bike. From their earliest age, children are improving their motor skills by engaging in various forms of playing. Engaging in physical playing builds both gross motor skills that use large muscle groups (running, throwing a ball, riding a bike) and fine motor skills that involve performing precise actions (playing with clay, building blocks). Children who do not play enough have less chances of developing their muscles properly, as well as precision in work.
Discovering Their Imaginative and Creative Side
Children are natural-born dreamers. They can turn a cardboard box into a castle or spaceship in no time. They do all that by playing. While imagining different characters and scenarios in their little heads, kids are effectively developing their imagination. This is especially important for younger kids. Creativity and imagination help them to express and get to know themselves and build problem-solving abilities.
Making Friends and Learning Social Norms
Humans are social beings, and they are better when they grow together. Playing with other kids builds social skills and helps children learn to share and negotiate. Communication between children is helping them improve their language skills. It is crucial for parents to encourage this type of playing, in homes, early learning centers, schools, parks and birthday parties. To motivate playing, you can use creative games (e.g. musical chairs), amazing kids party decorations, competitions, Youth ATV, etc. Read more at kids ride wild.
Acquiring Knowledge in a Fun Way
That Lego you are holding is a rectangle. The letter on the superhero figurine is S. The color of your favorite stuffed toy is blue… Playing has always been the best way children are getting to know the world. The games can vary depending on the child, family and friends, but the most important thing is that kids should be having fun while playing it, because it will be a lot easier for them to learn something.
It is a big and harsh world out there, and in order to make it, kids have to wear a strong armor of self-confidence. Mastering new skills through play is a great way to boost kids’ self-esteem, especially when they get your approval and support for their accomplishments. The proud feeling of achievement that a two-year-old gets for moving one step further without holding your hand leads to a great pleasure, but it is also a foundation for a self-confident person.
Strengthening Parent-Child Bond
Playing with children encourages parents to be fully engaged in their development. Parent-child play is very meaningful and has more value than you think. It allows fully grown persons to enter the children’s world and foster closeness and connection. The more active you are as a parent and co-player in your kids’ world, the more will they be willing to play by your rules in your world. Most importantly, by playing with your kids (if you just listen and observe well enough), you will learn a lot about their wishes, fears, aspirations and personalities.
We are living in the era when free unstructured playing is jeopardized by many wonders and stressors of the modern world. Still, the fact that playing is such an important factor in kids’ development should be sufficient to motivate our kids not to forget this crucial skill.
About author: Tracey Clayton is a full time mom of three girls. She feels she knows a thing or two about raising happy, healthy and confident kids, and offers helpful advice in hers parenting articles. Her motto is: “Live the life you love, love the life you live.”