The definition of play differs greatly depending on who you talk too, as a passionate educator I see play as a way of learning, growing and exploring – an invaluable part of childhood and the most effective method of learning for children (even in the first years of primary school).
Play encompasses children’s language, children’s work and children’s relaxation (read Hey Mum, I Am Not Just Playing – What Your Child is Really Doing and Why it’s So Important). Play fosters healthy development, and it is for all children – play is not exclusive or selective. Play starts from birth and should be encouraged throughout childhood. Play can involve many different activities; it could be role play (pretending to be someone), it could be an active activity; it could be dress-up, quiet time, construction. It can be enjoyed on your own or with others; play can even invite an adult into a child’s world where they create the context and the rules. (Read our article Navigating Child’s Play).
Why is play so crucial?
– Children can express their feelings through play (often feelings can be more easily expressed through play than through verbal language).
– In play, children are in charge of what they do. Being in control in play helps them to learn to manage their feelings
– Play lets children build skills and confidence in themselves (watch Building Self Confidence in Your Child).
– Children learn about the give and take of relationships, the role of a leader and a follower.
– Play is a safe way to learn to make mistakes and mend them
– Play is scientifically proven to reduce stress
– Play is a way children make sense of their world
– Play can be magical, it allows for imagination and creativity
– Play is something children can own in a world where adults organise most things.
– And most importantly, play is fun; it’s an activity for pleasure that children are empowered by, play is learning in disguise.
Even if the learning during play isn’t highlighted with neon flashing lights, trust me, it’s there. The more time and space children are given for play in a variety of settings and contexts; the richer and more meaningful their learning will become.
So sit back and let them play – this time is so incredibly valuable.