You know your child is having fun when they’re playing, whether they’re running around the house screaming or making imaginary food with play dough, it’s safe to say that they are enjoying themselves.
Listening to them as they explores the worlds they’ve created can be amusing and enlightening for you, but is it more than just an enjoyable way to pass the time?
Did you know that play is important enough to be included in the United Nations’ charter on the Rights of a Child?
What does your little one really get from playing?
Running, climbing and jumping all help your child develop physically. They’ll strengthen their muscles and weight-bearing activities will help strengthen their bones as well. This physical activity will also improve your little one’s circulation and cardiovascular health and increase their stamina. Exercise helps promote a healthy appetite and better sleep routine. Their gross motor skills will get better, particularly their balance and hand-eye coordination, and they’ll become less clumsy. Fine detail work, manipulating tools or pencils, will give them the muscular control they need for a range of tasks from writing to tying their shoelaces. Their varied physical activities will also help to build up their core strength, which is important for when it comes time to start school and sit comfortably at a desk to learn and concentrate.
As your child explores their environment, whether they’re building forts, constructing towers with bricks or role-playing, they’re honing a range of cognitive skills. Not only will they be developing their creativity and imagination, they’ll be learning new concepts and how to apply them to their everyday life; these are important skills for making decisions and solving problems.
They’ll learn to plan and acquire the resources they need to achieve their goals and overcome any obstacles that they encounter along the way. They’ll build the vital neural pathways needed to gather, analyse, retrieve and use information. When it comes time for them to set their own goals, they’ll be learning to understand their limitations, and challenge themselves to exceed them, and to take responsibility for themselves. Their communication skills will improve and their vocabulary will broaden as they share ideas, seek advice and give guidance.
Playing with others gives your little one the opportunity to build on their social skills particularly conflict management, negotiation, team-work and empathy. They’ll understand the need to be inclusive and how to win, and lose, gracefully.
They learn that others have their own points of view and how to take them into consideration. All these skills are vital in building and maintaining relationships. The positive feelings that come with playing well with others will feed their self-confidence and self-esteem making them feel better able to tackle the next challenge. It will also give them the confidence to take emotional risks, such as talking in front of others and asking questions in class, which will ensure that they get more out of any learning environment.
Play is a good way to physically express emotions that can sometime be difficult to deal with; a frustrated child can get rid of some of their negative feelings by kicking a ball or running around, drawing allows an upset child to put a shape to whatever they’re worried about which can help them explain their concerns, and building with blocks can be a useful distraction when anger has taken over.
Play is also a way to generate some extremely positive emotions; the laughter that comes from a silly game or the pride at having constructed a difficult building all contribute to a child’s emotional well-being.
It’s fun watching your little one play. It’s even better when you understand the importance of the skills they’re developing while they amuse themselves- especially when you know that all you have to do is give them the opportunity to do what comes naturally.