Why is Play Important?
Play is how children learn. Through the process of play children develop a better understanding of their world. Children learn the following skills through play:
- Children learn social skills. They learn to interact with others and develop skills such as sharing and taking turns.
- Children learn how to cope with difficult situations. Play provides children with the opportunity to sort out their feelings. If children are experiencing challenging events in their life, they will often work through these difficulties in their play.
- Children learn how to communicate. Whether talking to a friend, a parent or to the object with which they are playing, children are experimenting and practicing their speech and language skills.
- Children learn about the concept of symbolism. A chair can represent a plane or a bus. An understanding of symbolism provides the child with the ability to understand how words can represent objects and how numbers can represent quantity.
- Children enhance their imagination. Creative energies are stimulated through the play process.
- Children learn about themselves. Play provides children with the opportunity to engage in different activities and discover what they enjoy best.
- Play lets children make their own decisions and choices. Children have very little control over their lives. Adults make most decisions for them. Play gives children a chance to build decision-making skills in a safe environment.
- Play helps strengthen relationships. Sharing a fun play experience helps to enhance and strengthen relationships.
- Play keeps children involved and occupied. There is a connection between children’s play and their behavior. If we can help children to find fun play experiences that keep them interested and involved, negative behaviors often disappear and are replaced with positive play activities.
- Children develop the foundations of reading and writing through play. Children practice fine motor skills as they draw, colour, and paint. This will help them to print and write when they are older. Games that involve children to notice small differences between objects will help them later to learn to discriminate between differences in letters and figures.
What can Parents do to Assist their Children’s Play?
- Observe the play. Watch to discover how children play and what interests them. Adults can learn a lot about children when they watch them play. They will be able to see through the child’s eyes
- Be on the child’s level. The adult should be positioned for good eye contact with the children, sitting at their level. Non-verbal communication can be missed when a parent and child are not at eye level with each other.
- Follow the child’s lead. Children usually know how they like to play. They may begin to lose interest in the activity if an adult tries to take over. Consider yourself an assistant.
- Give the child encouragement. When adults play with them, children are being encouraged to continue to play. This helps the child feel what they are doing is important to the adult.
- Match the child’s ability to the play. It is good to offer challenges in their play, as long as the challenge matches the developmental level of the child.
How can a Parent Find Time to Play?
- Play can be incorporated into just about any activity that is part of the household routine. With a child’s keen imagination, even the simplest item or activity has play potential. Think about what you do daily and incorporate play.
Source: Learning Through Play Parent Group Leader’s Guide, page 24-25, SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health Learning Institue. Reprinted with Permission.
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