As I was reading newspaper in the morning, catching up on what was happening in the world, Anaya my little girl walked up to me with a tiny plastic toy cup from her kitchen set and handing it over to me said "Mama Cha", she then returned to her make-believe kitchen and started cooking. I found the whole incident adorable and it also transported me to my childhood, when I played all day long and entered into a world that was full of adventure and fun.
How does play help children?
Play is a rich and rewarding activity that helps children practice all kinds of new skills. By talking to and interacting with their stuffed animals, dolls, and toys, children strengthen their verbal and social skills; by devising their own plots like what happens next? Children can practice problem-solving. It helps them grow in physical strength, gross motor or fine motor skill development, leadership skills, teamwork, handling success and failure, creating bonds or friendships, enhances their language skills and creativity, last but not the least is learning to share. And all these skills finally prepare them to face the world outside.
Play can be broadly classified into the following categories:
It includes whole body and limb movements, co-ordination and balance. These activities involve physical movements and helps develop gross and fine muscle strength and overall integration of muscles, nerves, and brain functions. Setting up empty water bottles like bowling pins, and letting your child use a soft ball to ‘bowl', playing catch/football, running, skipping are examples of this form of play.
Involves children playing with other children and/or adults. It provides opportunities for kids to make new friends, to negotiate with others, and to develop their communication skills. By interacting with others in play settings, children learn social rules such as, give and take, reciprocity, cooperation, and sharing. Games like musical chairs, sack race, newspaper dance and games that needs a partner or to be played as a group.
Constructive play is when children manipulate their environment to create things. This type of play occurs when children build towers and cities with blocks, play in the sand etc. Constructive play allows children to experiment with objects; find out combinations that work and don't work; and learn basic knowledge about stacking, building, drawing, making music and constructing. Blocks are a classic children's toy and also a good material for constructive play. A baby or toddler might use blocks to make towers he later knocks down while older children might make houses, roads and other structures. Other creation toys, such as pop beads, magnetic tiles, marble mazes, foam shapes and toy tool kits are additional examples of items children use for constructive play.
Games with Rules
This helps children understand the importance of social contracts and rules. Part of the development occurs as they learn that games like Follow the Leader, Red Rover, Simon Says, football and cricket as games cannot function without everyone adhering to the same set of rules. The games with rules concept teaches children a critically important concept that the game of life has rules that we all must follow to function productively. Games like "Simon says and Red letter are enjoyed thoroughly by children.
This is also called imaginative play, make-believe play and fantasy play, is when children pretend things/places are something else, they themselves are someone else, and they create play scenarios. In children, Pretend play is strongly associated to language development, problem solving, logical thinking, story-telling, social competence, perceiving social norms, amalgamation of emotional and cognitive skills, and the ability to play with others in the role of a ‘player'.
Involves children playing with sounds and words. It includes unrehearsed and spontaneous manipulation of these, often with rhythmic and repetitive elements. Children like playing with language - enjoying patterns, sounds and nonsense words. They also love jokes and funny stories. Nursery rhymes, story-telling, tongue twisters, songs are a good example of communication play.
Involves children using physical skills and their senses to find out what things feel like and what can be done with them. Children explore their own bodies and then they explore the things in their environment. Example is, engaging with an object or area, either by manipulation or movement, assessing its properties, possibilities and content, such as stacking bricks.
Involves children exploring and using their bodies and materials to make and do things and to share their feelings, ideas and thoughts. They enjoy being creative by dancing, painting, playing with junk and recycled materials, working with play-dough and clay, and using their imaginations.
How can parents help?
Always remember, you make a difference in how much your child learns through play. Play is to a child, as work is to an adult. As parents, we must respect our children's play and trust them to learn from this aspect of growth and development.
- Join in their play.
Delight in the discoveries. When learning takes place in the context of loving relationships, children become eager, lifelong learners.
- See what your child is trying to do or figure out. Think about all they are learning, such as sinking and floating when they drop different objects into the bathtub.
- Provide the support they need to accomplish the goal. Lift them up to touch an interesting object; stand behind them to help them make it up the stairs of the slide etc.
- Present new challenges when you see they are ready. When they enter the world of pretend, suggest that the stack of blocks might also become a lighthouse/tower.
- Be spontaneous and have fun. Playing should not feel like work. It should be a joyful, exciting time that you and your child share.
To quote American television personality and educator Fred Rogers "Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood."
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