Kids Learn A Lot of Skills From The World Of Play
By Ken Mathie
For children, play is their work. It is naturally
enjoyable, of course, but more than that, it is their way of
learning about the world. It helps them naturally engage in things
that interest them. Therefore, play should be led by the child or
at least inspired by the child, in order for it to remain relevant
and meaningful to them.
When children are at play in a positive fashion,
they happily lose themselves in what they are doing. They live in
their own realm of imagination and can explore and examine at
leisure. Many times, they can pull their parents in by saying,
"Lets play, mom," and mom, too, then can enter into that childlike
world once again.
In addition to children, young infants also
immerse themselves in play activities. They do so because they
need to make sense of the world around them. Play gives very young
children the means to experience the world through their own eyes,
which is vital for their development. Peekaboo is one such game;
although this simply seems silly and fun to adults, babies rejoice
in the surprise they feel every time they see the faces of the
people they love reemerge over and over.
Stages of Play
As toddlers, children experience a growth spurt
and a rapid increase in motor development. Because of this, they
are driven to manually explore literally everything they can get
their hands on. They can fiddle with everything from a
construction toy to the box it came in. Toddlers also explore the
world by continually babbling as they learn the language they were
born into. They can also dance spontaneously, and wiggle with
absolute joy or imitate finger plays with mom and dad.
As preschoolers, children began to do what is
called "parallel play," in which they play alongside peers but not
necessarily with them. As children get older, they actually begin
to interact with peers in their play, so that friends become fully
involved in their ongoing imaginative games. Increased ability,
both physical and motor, as well as imaginative, allows them to
extend their play from indoors to out, from simple play with
stuffed animals to table games, to dramatic games and outdoor
Benefits of Play
As stated above, play is no laughing matter, even
though it is, of course, fun. In fact, play is simply a children's
way of exploring and making sense of the world. Therefore, it is
really necessary. Some reasons why include:
1. Play is absolute pure and utter joy.
For the toddler who uses the empty box as a car
and imagines driving down the highway just as mom or dad does
going to work, imaginative play helps him understand mom and dad's
world from his point of view. And of course, he exhibits a sheer
joy when he does this that many adults may be slightly envious of.
2. Play develops socio-emotional learning.
As children play, they develop competence,
confidence and independence in the new situations they encounter
there. The 10-month-old who shrieks with joy at her stuffed toy
and a 10-year-old playing basketball with his friends both are
learning age-appropriate rules and social norms in the process.
The baby learns to wait for her toy with patience, while the boy
learns to deal with the possibility of losing the game, and with
being a good sport regardless.
3. Play develops physical and motor
Because play often encompasses the use of every
sense, including the body and use of the extremities, children not
only exercise their minds, but their bodies as well; they develop
physical strength, ease of movement, and balance and coordination.
Perceptual motor ability, which is the capacity to
coordinate what you perceive with how you move, is a basic skill
every preschooler needs to develop. Three-year-olds do this by
digging, scooping and pouring sand into a container, which helps
them develop a sense of balance between the perception of the
space in front of them and hand movements, so that he follows
through properly with the appropriate motor activity.
4. Play helps develop cognitive learning.
Play is very important to a child's intellectual
development. To learn properly, children need to learn to decipher
words, numbers and other forms of higher intellectual functioning.
When children are very young, symbols will not mean anything to
them, because young children have not yet learned to make the leap
in reasoning that abstract thinking requires. Play helps teach
children to understand these symbolic relationships better in ways
that are truly fun and meaningful to them. For example, a child
can play when he or she learns that two plus three equals five.
This can be done, for example, by having a parent sit down with
several blocks and showing the child by an arrangement on the
table just what two plus three equals five entails. You can start
by grouping two blocks together and three blocks together and then
push them together to say, "Equals five." In this way, the child
learns to translate abstract concepts like addition into very
concrete examples that he or she can understand.
Older children, similarly, can learn things like
math concepts such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and
division, by doing game scores. Applying these types of skills to
practical applications is what will help children of any age learn
5. Play enhances language development.
Beginning with infants and toddlers, play can help
facilitate language development. Toddlers especially will need to
be immersed in language continually so that they can imitate what
they hear, although this is also important for infants. Children
who have learned to speak learn best from songs and rhymes that
are both fun and educational, in that the songs use rhyme,
alliteration and consonance, for example, so that they are easy to
remember, fun and very easy to imitate. This helps children begin
to understand how language works.
When children play with toys, adults can
facilitate learning by modeling how they can use language to label
objects or describe an event. When they play, preschoolers use
language to interact with each other, communicate ideas, and can
also learn information by listening to older children and adults
teach them things.
6. Play encourages creativity.
With very young children, imagination is the way to go. Young
children can use imagination to learn just about anything.
Suddenly, simple play clay becomes spaghetti with meat sauce, a
blanket becomes Superman's cape, or an overturned coffee can
becomes a makeshift drum. Just about whatever children wish to
express can be done through play. In this way, they can master
what they know through practice and then show new skills off,
express themselves, and create endlessly.
7. Play provides opportunities to bond
between the child and another person, such as parent and child.
Play is vitally important in a children's
development. It lets children interact with others, experiment,
and can even help with moral development. Parents can use play to
encourage and support their children's development.
To start, let your child take the lead in the
play. Let the child initiate the activity, set the theme of play,
and establish parameters. In this way, play is a venue for
children to be in control in a world where they are so often
controlled by others. This helps develop competency and a sense of
mastery in the child that better helps him or her develop
confidence later in life. It is also a perfect opportunity to let
your children unique talents develop.
You can help your child develop his sense of
competency by allowing him to figure things out for himself,
without pressure or a sense of "right" or "wrong." For example, if
a child is learning how to figure out a puzzle, stop yourself from
helping at first. Let the child literally "puzzle" over the puzzle
without any interference from you. Not only will the child figure
it out eventually, but he may even come up with more creative ways
to use the puzzle than you could have thought of. When the task
has been completed successfully, congratulate the child on a job
As you play with your child, watch your child for
signals as to what he or she needs you to do. Do you need to be an
active participant in the activity? Do you need to provide some
encouragement? Is it time to gently stop the activity, clean up
and have lunch, if the child is hungry?
Whatever needs to be done, it's true that although
you let the child take the lead, you can maintain control of the
situation enough so that you have ultimate control over when it
starts and stops and what happens during it.
8. Have a play plan.
If possible, have a loose plan in place for you
and your child to spend time playing together each day. One good
way to do this is to use your children's self-care chores to begin
to play together. For example, brushing teeth or washing the face
does not have to be all business. You can use brushing the teeth
(along with the children's imagination), to encourage the child to
have fun during the process. Similarly, you can use washing my
face as a brief opportunity to play peekaboo, if time permits.
You can also do this with household chores.
Children love to help, and this is a perfect opportunity to begin
to foster a sense of responsibility to the outside world. Let your
toddler use his or her own toy vacuum cleaner to "help" you vacuum
when you do. When you fold clothes, give him or her a couple of
pieces of toweling to fold and play with. When you wash dishes,
save a couple of unbreakable pieces out and let the child play in
soapy water and begin to learn how to wash dishes.
In this way, the child begins to learn a sense of
responsibility along with the sense of play. Older siblings and
grandparents, too, can learn to foster this in the child as they
are included in your play "plan of action."
Kmat.com.au Discount Baby Clothes, Gifts and Toys Australia" - The online baby & kids clothing boutique where we
connect you with...The best available price for, kids clothing, baby wear, designer baby clothing, designer kids
clothing, boutique babywear, blankets, shoes & boots, nursery equipment, nappies, baby gifts, bags, bibs, books,
feeding, toys, and MUCH MORE!