the importance of play

The importance of play

In my work I am seeing more and more adults who seem to have lost the art of play, coming to me unsure of how to act, their role within the play, or concerned for when things did not go as expected. While no child needs to be taught how to play – they will make fun with the most limited of means – they do need permission. And they need adults who understand its importance.

From the time they are born your child is driven to play, learning through every experience

Through the constant and naturally evolving stages of play, your child will explore different experiences, trialling everything there is to know about the world and their place within it. As they grow and develop, the ways in which they play changes, but this foundational way of learning about everything around them will always stay with them.

As a small baby they are inquisitive about their world, especially faces as they try everything to engage and interact. In the early months, children play to investigate their surroundings and the objects within their reach, before connecting with others and using play to engage and make social connections.

As play becomes more complex and elaborate it is used to explore every concept

Whether it is time for a fairy’s tea-party, or the dinosaurs are about to attack the knights castle, every social dilemma and facet of life is explored and better understood through play. In fact, studies show that children can spend more time in creative discussion, negotiating the rules of play than actually engaging in the play itself!

Play allows children to explore issues they are not mature enough to comprehend in other ways.

Common themes including getting lost and being found, being small and being powerful, facing danger and being rescued, and dying and being reborn are all explored in play as your child works through stressful or confusing events in their lives, or things that are fascinating to them in ways that they can safely experience.

Physical play allows children to develop in every part of their mind and body

Through physical play children are also developing complex social skills. Whether through chasing games, or more rough-and-tumble styles, children experience holding back, to take turns at chasing or being on top as they learn to manage their excited behaviours.

Understanding complex ideas

Play involves understanding some very complex rules, both those that are established and set within the game, and those that are being discussed and altered moment by moment. There will be elements of ‘winning’ and ‘loosing’, of things not going according to plan. Play is a great way to help your child experience and work through these ideas that they will meet in many social situations. Support your child as they practice these difficult life-skills within the less risky environment of play, where both winning and losing is a temporary part of the game.

This article is taken from our course: What Every Parent Should Know

Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods.  Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child.


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