Did you know play is considered so important to optimal child development that it has been recognised by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child.
Through play, children develop language, social and emotional awareness, creativity and intellectual skills. During play, young children explore and discover the world around them; they take risks, imagination and solve problems, either alone or with others. The role that parents play is crucial as they facilitate quality learning opportunities by providing time, space and appropriate resources.
From emotional development to a boosted imagination, keep on reading to learn 7 of the many benefits play has on children’s development!
Language development & literacy in children
Play lays the foundation for literacy as it allows for many opportunities to develop language, speech, and vocabulary. Whether they play alone, making up characters or pretending to be a superhero, or play with others, children do a lot of talking and listening while playing.
Play stimulates a child’s imagination
Whenever a child creates stories around the role he or she has created for themselves or their playmate, they’re learning to think and create in abstract methods in what is beyond their world.
Play enhances learning
Role playing, fantasy and imaginative play help develop cognitive ability and stimulate multiple types of intelligence. Studies have shown that play ‘rewires’ the brain by changing the connections of neurons in the prefrontal cortex. Without the experiences free play brings, these connections aren’t changed.
Development of children’s social skills
Play also provides opportunities for social interactions and social skills. During play children increase their social competence and emotional maturity. The more children are engaged in play, the more interactions they form and the better the quality of these interactions. Children learn how to be part of a group, to lead, to follow instructions, to negotiate and to share, all essential skills that will determine future academic performance and life satisfaction.
Developing fine and gross motor skills
Play contributes to children’s fine and gross motor development and body awareness as they actively use their bodies. Learning to use a writing tool, such as a marker, is an example of fine motor development through play. The natural progression in small motor development is from scribbles to shapes and forms to representational pictures. Playing with writing tools helps children refine their fine motor skills.
Play supports emotional development
This is because play provides a way for children to express and cope with feelings. Acting out feeling sad, angry or worried in a situation they can control allows them to conquer their fears and develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resilience they will need to face future challenges.
Well.. play is fun!
Learning to play well, both by themselves and with others, sets children up to be content and sociable. A great deal happens when children are 'just playing.' They are developing skills and habits and attitudes that will stay with them throughout their lives. As they play they learn to cope with frustration, to continue to try to improve, to share with others, to give vocal expression to their thoughts and fantasies. They literally 'play for keeps.'
Sarah Owen founder of ‘Pyjama Drama’ – drama, music, movement and play for pre-school children says...
‘Many children seem to be born with a natural ability to play, but some children find it more difficult and need to ‘learn’ how to play well and this is where parents can make a big difference. Whilst it is very important that children play with their peers and are given opportunities for unstructured play, children who also play with a loved adult can benefit greatly – the benefits of having fun together cannot be underestimated!’