10 reasons why play is essential for children
Miriam McCaleb gives us 10 very good reasons why play is essential for children
1. PLAY IS WHERE CHILDREN AND THE WORLD INTERSECT. IT'S FULL OF LEARNING OF ALL KINDS.
Watch a child at play, and you are watching learning in action. When children play, they use their whole selves – bodies, imaginations, and feelings! They are refining what they know and don’t know, practising what they can and cannot yet do.
2. MOTOR DEVELOPMENT – FROM LARGE TO SMALL
Kids learn by doing. Their bodies were built to move, and they have lots of work to do in figuring out what they’re capable of! Motor development usually starts with mastery of our large movements and big body parts, before we learn to use our amazing hands.
3. LEARNING IS HAPPENING, FROM SIMPLE TO COMPLEX
When we are infants, we learn about the world by mouthing objects. We progress from
mouth to mind, from drools to deep thoughts, but the fundamental question is the same: what are the properties of this or that? Whether learning about mud or mathematics!
4. IT'S PRACTISE FOR THE SOCIAL WORLD
We are social mammals, and play is how our young ones learn about their social world. In play, children practise considering different points of view, and develop empathy. When your child imagines that they are “the sister” or “the dad”, they are becoming nicer little humans.
5. LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT BECOMES MORE COMPLEX
Research confirms that children try out new and more complex language during social play with peers. Formal games (eg board games) are a great backdrop for conversation for older kids, as well as being a model for turn taking.
6. IT HELPS WORK THROUGH EMOTIONAL SCENARIOS/ROLES
During play, children have an opportunity to work through some of life’s little lessons. In my time as a kindergarten teacher, I watched children re-enact tricky moments from their lives (first time to the dental nurse, getting told off) with the help of dolls or friends.
7. PROCESSING LIFE'S BIG EXPERIENCES
It’s not just life’s small stuff that kids can shake off with play. Earthquakes, deaths, and pandemics happen in children’s lives, too. Having an opportunity to create their own version of events (“this playdough monster is going to eat all the quakes”) can build calm.
8. PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS
Lest we forget, play is also the best way to develop and strengthen problem solving skills. Taking things apart to see how they work … it’s important. Figuring out just how long a stick needs to be for whatever purpose – these practical acts build intellectual muscle.
9. IT'S FUN. BALANCE ALONG KERBS – GO ON.
Play is important because it's fun. The hormones released by our brains during those joyful moments of enhance learning and feel goooooood. Those of us lucky enough to share our lives with children have masterful play coaches. What can we learn from them?
10. IT'S A CHILDREN'S RIGHTS ISSUE!
Finally, play is so darned important it is recognised as a human right in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Miriam McCaleb is a writer, researcher, teacher and mum of two great girls in rural North Canterbury. Find more of her work at baby.geek.nz.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 56 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW