They say that children’s work is play — and they’re right! It’s just as important as eating vegetables, reading books together, and getting a good night’s sleep for healthy development. Play is listed as one of every child’s fundamental rights by the United Nations.
There is no correct or incorrect way to play. It could be anything from putting your hand in mashed potatoes, playing musical instruments to playing video games or staring out the window. It varies depending on the day and the child.
Sometimes children play with their friends, and other times babies explore their baby playpen. They may speak aloud at times and remain silent in their heads at others. Play can be messy or risky at times, but it can also be quiet and relaxing.
To play, children do not require expensive toys or certificates. They need time, space, and freedom to investigate the ideas that pique their interest. Children learn when they play, regardless of how it appears.
Play is a fantastic teacher.
Children learn how to navigate the world through play in a way that they can understand and process. They investigate how to work in groups, share, negotiate, resolve conflicts, and advocate for themselves.
Play helps to develop imagination and creativity.
Symbolic play is an essential component of healthy development. It develops skills that children will need in learning and problem-solving. It also boosts creativity, which contributes to a person’s overall success.
Play enhances literacy.
Language is hardwired into children from birth. They develop language and literacy skills through play and interactions beginning at birth. Songs and poetry link syllables to beats. This assists children in developing their listening skills and learning about the sounds in words.
Children learn about communication and its structure through play. Even if they can’t speak, they get to practice back-and-forth conversation! Sharing stories in books, orally, or through pretend play helps them understand who they are and their place in the community. Stories also teach about the structure of narratives and how language works.
Play stimulates curiosity, and a curious mind is eager to learn. Learning how to play independently is just as important as learning to play with others. It encourages children to develop a stronger sense of self-sufficiency.
Play promotes cognitive development.
What does it mean to “promote cognitive growth”? It means that play is necessary for proper brain development. It helps to strengthen and expand neural connections in the brain. These are the neural pathways in the brain that we use to think.
Unstructured play also aids in the development and strengthening of the brain’s prefrontal cortex. This area impacts how a child learns, solves problems, and learn about their surroundings.
Children who are at ease with solitary play feel more capable of tackling other tasks on their own and figuring out where they fit in. Developing those skills can even help with future group socialization. Children who play alone can learn social cues by watching group interactions from a distance.
Play provides emotional and behavioral advantages.
When we’re feeling overwhelmed as adults, we turn to activities that help us relax. These activities are more than just a diversion. They are a way of reintroducing play into our lives and reconnecting us with the things in life that help us feel grounded.
Children are the same, except they require a lot more playtime. Playing regularly can help reduce anxiety, stress, and irritability. It also improves happiness and self-esteem.