Irrespective of background, kids loves to play. And the desire to play is so strong that it can even trump screen time for many children; including for my own daughter!
The deep-seated desire to play is not something random. It’s been shown again and again, to be fundamental for kids’ cognitive development. And not just when they’re babies and toddlers, but well into the primary/elementary years too. In fact, play has been recognised as such an important part of the healthy development of children, that the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights (1989), recognised play as a fundamental right of every child.
Despite the research and recognition of the importance of play, the time given to children for play continues to decrease. Today, children play EIGHT HOURS less per week than children did twenty years ago 🙁 (Elkind)
Importance of play for preschoolers
Play is essential for kids’ cognitive development as well as their socio-emotional growth. They learn to interact with others and learn the skills and art of compromise and negotiation; vital skills also needed for success into adulthood.
I remember when my daughter was at preschool and she’d tell me on a regular basis that she needed to be ‘careful’ with what she said to another girl in her class. If she said the ‘wrong’ thing, the girl would say she wasn’t her friend anymore. To hear this was the most hurtful thing for my daughter at the time.
I was often tempted to explain that she didn’t have to be careful, that she didn’t have to tread on egg shells with people. But I reminded myself that it was an important learning curve. She was learning that people are different, as are our interactions with them and will adapt according to who we are engaging with. It was a valuable, if at times painful, lesson for her to learn for acquiring effective social skills.
Play develops a continuing love and desire to learn…
Enabling our kids to become life-long learners is a precious gift. Its’ something that will serve them well thought their adult lives. When playing, kids have control over their learning. They can decide who’s going to be the doctor and who’s going to be the patient, for example. It’s a control that increases their motivation and desire to learn. They will explore in order to find the knowledge they need and become more and more confident in problem solving.
Play develops language and literacy…
Through imaginative play, children are able to practice their use of language which has a positive correlation with language and literacy later on. It enhances language and literacy by developing the child’s ability to create stories in a way that is understandable to others, as well as being able to incorporate other children’s ideas in a way that makes sense.
To learn more on this, pop over to: Cultivating a Love of Learning Through Play
Play Ideas for cognitive development
We seem to be increasingly living in a world where there doesn’t seem much time for anything! Life can be hectic, so when our child asks, again, ‘can you play with me?’, it can often feel stressful.
Below are some ideas that I hope are helpful on the kind of things you can do with your child that will reap the benefits of play. And remember it’s not the amount of time you play, but the quality of the play.
Kids’ cognitive development through play is nothing new. Yet, time for free play in schools is being decreased in many countries. Add to that the increase in after school activities and additional tuition for some kids, the amount of time they have to play is being squeezed more and more. It’s not always easy for parents, especially when you add in the peer pressure from other parents. But thankfully, we do have a say over how much time our child gets to play outside of school.
Our kids will be heading into a work place very different from the one we entered. The need for skills such as adaptability, creativity, sociability are becoming more important than ever. And it’s through play at this early age, that will give out kids the best opportunity to thrive in these areas as an adult. I think R. E. White sums it up nicely:
The skills children learn through play in the early years set the stage for future learning and success from the kindergarten classroom to the workplace.
Over to you…
What are your thoughts on kids playing today? As a parent, do you find it increasingly difficult to provide your children with enough play time? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on it in the comments below.