We hear parents feel happy and proud when their two-year olds recognize alphabets, when their three-year olds write alphabets and when their four-year olds read sentences.
How often, but, do we hear parents describe how amazing they feel to observe their children play?!
More often than not, parents and elders look at play as a fun thing for children. However, when you closely follow a child from the early development stages, you realize the real power of play; that play is more than a ‘just fun’ thing. Recent scientific researches show evidence that play forms the foundation for a child’s healthy development. Watch this video of Professor Karen Hutchison of Rowan University who says, “Play is actually the work of a child in which they are preparing themselves for adult roles and for society at large.”
While play is often considered as a child’s activity which engages them for a while to pass time, learning is looked at as another exclusive activity unrelated to play. Not many parents are aware of what a child learns as he builds a sand castle, pretends a doctor and races his toy cars. The fact that an apparent, immediate learning outcome may not be always associated with a child’s play makes it lesser appreciable than a structured learning program. In an article, published in the Journal of Early Childhood, author Sally Hurwitz explains why children must play in order to be successful. Play is described as a process in which the outcome is not as important as the process itself.
Apart from the role of play in cognitive, physical, emotional and psychological development of a child, skills such as fine motor, gross motor, imagination, creativity and problem-solving are also enhanced during playtime. I would consider these terms as a collective definition of a hundred of smaller, practical abilities that children learn along. For instance, when I watch my four-year old, I understand his inner life much better than while I talk to him. As he plays with his doll house, making the mom, dad, sister and brother play characters talk, I understand what his mind has conceived about a family. Play indeed helps them express their thoughts, opinions and emotions about everything they experience around. Expression – is yet another necessary skill that play facilitates. The infographics below lists interesting facts, quotes and research findings on the power of play.
Playtime can be of multitude types and the benefits of each can be unique in its own way. An infant smiling at a wall is actually playing, a toddler pushing a chair noisily is playing and a preschooler running around a tree is playing. Unstructured play, especially, gives a child the freedom to choose what and how he/she wants to play. Something that we often perceive as silly and meaningless in a child’s play could actually be of great substance to his/her development. Emphasizing the need for creative, spontaneous play, author and child developmental psychologist, David Elkind, writes in his book, The Power of Play – Learning What Comes Naturally, that play’s respected place in a child’s life needs to be restored.
Next time your little one tries to touch the sand in the playground, refrain from saying a ‘No’. Remember it is his work and it is your job to let him do his work 🙂
There is more to come on the All about Playtime series. Subscribe on the right side with your Email to receive instant updates of new posts on playtime.
Have some Happy Playtime until then!