The Oxford dictionary describes play as: to fulfill, to occupy oneself, to have the ability to perform, to undertake or exercise activities for pleasure.
Not any particular child, but every child in any nation, environment or circumstance needs play. It’s absolutely necessary for children to play, to express themselves social, emotionally and physically. Play allows itself to be an individual creation or to be shared with others, it can be pulled in any direction letting it be turned into anything a child would like, preparing a healthy start to a lifetime of learning. Play is so special that its generosity even includes having fun; in fact that is one of the most important things about it. It has so many benefits that head off in every direction developing all the important ingredients for strong head start in a child life.
It is the adults job to explore the conditions which are best for maximizing the potential benefits of play for children to develop these social skills. One of the ways to do this is to provide and encourage games that are fun, exciting and positive for children. Many social skills are learnt through co-operative activities allowing the child to learn how to confidently form stronger friendships and relationships with siblings and parents.
Activities that involve interacting with others teach children not only about themselves but also about other childrens feeling needs and wants. Since they have learnt to value others’ emotions they develop skills to handle confrontations and conflicts in the future.
It’s also important for a child to develop physical strengths along with the social and emotional. Play has a huge impact in this development for children of varying ages, abilities and interests. Physical play strengthens a child’s fine motor skills as well as gross motor skills. Fine motor skills include such things as eye, mouth, wrist, finger and toe movements, whereas motor skills are the exercise of the larger muscle groups like the arms, legs and torso. This motor play provides critical opportunities for childrens overall strengthening of muscles, nerves and brain stimulation.
Play involves social, emotional, and physical learning. Included in all these types of learning comes cognitive development, an important result of play. Play gives children the opportunity to understand the world, interact with others in social ways and to express and control emotions. Play is a child’s opportunity to practice the skills they are building, and to try out new tasks. This gives them the framework and knowledge to solve more complex problems. All these things are needed for a child to get a healthy start in life. But the most important part of play is having fun. Play and fun are inseparable from each other. Without play, fun doesnt exist and without fun play cant exist.
For more information on early childhood education and the effect of good childcare on a child’s development check out my section on kindergarten and kindercare at our website.