The Value of Active Play for the Young Learner

PLAY IS A CHILD’S WORK. PLAY IS IMPORTANT for children’s development and for children to bond. It offers a chance to connect with your child. You are your child’s first teacher and much of that teaching happens through play. Play helps your child learn the rules of your family and what is expected of him or her. As children grow, play helps them learn how to act in society.

With all of the structured activities and the strictly scheduled lives that kids have these days, many kids are left without any real time to just play, which is considered a birthright by many experts.

So why is it so important to let kids play? According to the American Academy of Pediatric’s Clinical Report on The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds, in addition to being important to healthy brain development, the benefits of play include:

  • allowing kids to use their creativity and develop their imagination, dexterity, and other strengths
  • encouraging kids to interact with the world around them
  • helping kids conquer their fears and build their confidence
  • teaching kids to work in groups, so they learn to share and resolve conflicts
  • helping kids practice decision making skills

It is important to note that this kind of play is meant to be unstructured, child driven play. It is not the kind of play time that is totally controlled by adults and doesn’t include passive play, such as sitting in front of a video game, computer, or TV.

There are many benefits to play. Children gain knowledge through their play. They learn to think, remember, and solve problems. Play gives children the opportunity to test their beliefs about the world. Children increase their problem-solving abilities through games and puzzles. Children involved in make-believe play can stimulate several types of learning. Children can strengthen their language skills by modeling other children and adults. Playing house helps children create stories about their roles, such as “I am the Mom.” They also imitate their own family experiences. This helps children learn about the different roles of family members. Children gain an understanding of size, shape, and texture through play. It helps them learn relationships as they try to put a square object in a round opening or a large object in a small space. Books, games, and toys that show pictures and matching words add to a child’s vocabulary. It also helps a child’s understanding of the world. Play allows children to be creative while developing their own imaginations. It is important to healthy brain development. Play is the first opportunity for your child to discover the world in which he lives. Play offers a child the ability to master skills that will help develop self-confidence and the ability to recover quickly from setbacks.

In today’s world of balancing work and home schedules, parents find it hard to have quality time with their children. It is essential for parents to make the best use of time they have with their children. Your child needs time with you to relax and play. Playing with children builds lasting bonds. Playing allows parents to appreciate the uniqueness of each child. Playing with children can also be a stress reducer for over-worked parents. Laughing and relaxing are important to your own well-being. Try to spend individual  time with each of your children. When a parent or sibling plays a board game with a child, shares a bike ride, plays baseball, or reads a story, the child learns self-importance. Your child’s self-esteem gets a boost. You are sending positive messages to your child when you spend quality playtime with him. From these early interactions, children develop a vision of the world and gain a sense of their place in it.

Play is an essential and critical part of all children’s development. Play starts in the child’s infancy and ideally, continues throughout his or her life. Play is how children learn to socialize, to think, to solve problems, to mature and most importantly, to have fun. Play connects children with their imagination, their environment, their parents and family and the world. Parental involvement in a child’s world of play is not only beneficial for the child but is extremely beneficial to the parent. Playing with children establishes and strengthens bonds that will last forever. Parent-child play opens doors for the sharing of values, increases communication, allows for teachable moments and assists in problem solving. Playtime provides opportunities for the parent and child to confront and resolve individual differences, as well as family related concerns and issues. Finally, it allows the parent to view the world through the eyes of a child once again.  Let’s Play and Have Fun!

American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report. The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child
Excerpt from Integrating Language Arts Through Literature and Thematic Units, by B.D. Roe, E.P. Ross, 2006 edition, p. 136-137.

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