The Oxford dictionary describes play as: to fulfill, to occupy oneself, to have the ability to perform, to undertake or exercise activities for pleasure.
No matter in what country they live, no matter their environment or circumstances, every child must have play. It is vital that a child exercises play in order to all themselves to express socially emotionally and to perform physically. Play is the start of learning, preparing a child for learning throughout his or her life. It can involve individual creativity or cooperation with others, and can be turned into anything the child wants. Play is so special that its generosity even includes having fun; in fact that is one of the most important things about it. It gives a child a strong head start in life by exploring in many different directions.
The adult’s job is to provide the environment and ideas that maximize play’s potential benefits, allowing children to develop their social skills. One of the ways to do this is to provide and encourage games that are fun, exciting and positive for children. Cooperative games build many social skills. These skills allow the child to form strong friendships and family relationships.
Group activities help children learn about themselves as well as about the needs and wants of other children. Since they have learnt to value others’ emotions they develop skills to handle confrontations and conflicts in the future.
As well as being socially and emotionally equipped a child need to develop physical strengths. 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. Play involving movement is critical for strengthening and stimulating the child’s muscles, nerves and brain.
Play involves social, emotional, and physical learning. Included in all these types of learning comes cognitive development, an important result of play. Through play, children learn to understand the world, interact socially with others, and express and control their emotions. Play provides an opportunity for children to practice newly acquired skills and attempt or challenge tasks, they start to solve complex problems that they would not or could not otherwise do. All these things are needed for a child to get a healthy start in life. But there is one paragraph missing perhaps the most important, this one is about fun! Play and fun are inseparable from each other. Without play, fun doesnt exist and without fun play cant exist.
Learn more about early childhood education and how good childcare affects a child’s development see my section on kindergarten and kindercare at our website.