Play time: Fun time, learning time, bonding time!

By: Henri Joyce
I’m sure you’ve experience this parenting dilemma. The sun is shining and it’s a beautiful, hot day. Your daughter or son is begging you to take him or her to the park but there is a pile of washing in the laundry basket, a stack of dishes in the sink and countless other chores. On the one hand you want to spend quality time with your child but on the other hand the housework has to be tackled. What is a parent to do after all play is just play or is it? In this article I will explain, that children learn through play, different types of play and their value, how play helps the development of a person from babies into adulthood and finally, how playing with your child is an opportunity for bonding, learning and fun.

What do children learn through play?Why is play vital and why should it be encouraged? Children it is the main way that children learn, in fact for children play is work. Play helps children to communicate ideas, it allows them to develop important skills and also it excites children. Through play our children learn skills and habits that will help them develop into happy, healthy well-balanced adults. For play to be meaningful your child needs your participation sometimes. Twenty minutes a day or more will increase your children’s development. Playing with parents and carers is wonderful but playing with friends of their own age and older children is enriching and will help them learn social skills.

What are the benefits of play?There are many ways in which children benefit from play. It has been proven by psychologists that children who do not play fail to thrive. For play to be meaningful, children need someone to play with, choice, variety and enthusiasm. The benefits of play can be seen in five areas, they are:

Physical – Developing co-ordination, physical fitness and health Social – learning about friendships, personality and emotions Emotional – practicing adult roles through role play Language – communication skills, problem solving Cognitive – through play children develop an understanding of concepts, group objects and explore different materials Children need a range of toys and materials to develop in all of the five areas.

Different types of play and their valuePlay can take many different shapes and forms however your child needs a balance of all forms in order to develop into a well-rounded adult.

Play type can be divided into four main areas, imaginative play, construction, creative play, physical play and board games. Through imaginative play or pretend play children dress up and act out different aspects of daily life. Children learn to tell stories and make sense of daily life experiences.

Construction play uses a variety of toys including, duplo, bricks, and magnetic blocks and also re-cycled materials such as boxes. Children love to create things out of ‘junk’; I know my two-year-old granddaughter can play for hours with large boxes. They become houses, ships, washing machines the list is endless! Construction toys help children learn about shape, colour and size, improve fine motor skills, problem solve and concentration.

Creative play covers a wide range of activities such as painting, drawing, collage (cutting, gluing and sticking), play dough and sewing. Creative play provides opportunities for children to develop manipulative skills experiment and make choices for themselves. I find that in the summer most creative activities can be relocated outside but during the winter a cheap shower curtain can protect surfaces from damage.

Imaginative play such as dressing up, playing with farms, train sets, dolls’ houses enable children to develop their imaginations. They learn how the world works as well as making up stories and re-enacting favourite tales. When Ella plays with her baby doll Amy, we have to rock Amy to sleep, feed her and bathe her. A client, Carmen learnt that playing hospitals prepared her son for a visit to the hospital. She was amazed by Sam’s confidence. Sam a quiet 6 year old talked to the Doctor as if they were old friends. Old clothes make fantastic dressing up outfits.

Physical play covers many activities, which can be indoors or outdoors. It can involve large play equipment like bikes, climbing frames, tunnels, smaller toys like bats, balls and hoops or no equipment at all. My niece loves to play hide and seek or chasing games. Physical play is not only healthy but develops large and small motor skills (necessary for muscle control), self-confidence, spatial awareness and co-operation.

Board games and playing cards such as ludo, snap, snakes and ladders provide hours of endless fun and also provide children with an opportunity to develop language skills, turn taking, sharing and how to be a good sport.

Playing with children from birth onwardsBabies respond on a very instinctive level. Play with babies from birth onwards by talking, making faces, tickling and playing peek-a-boo games.

The best way to ensure a child plays with a toy is to make it fun. If you play together with the toy he will enjoy it much more and you will increase the learning potential. Playing with your child makes him or her feel loved and special. It is important to follow your child’s lead when you are playing together and don’t worry if your child plays with the same toys over and over again because its quite normal.

How does play help children develop into well-balanced adults?I am sure you have met and worked with people who you find difficult to get along with? It could be they lack confidence, poor communication skills or an inability to work as part of a team. Through play children learn to share and develop their sense of self. Play as I have explained offers opportunities to develop language, physical, social, emotional, creative and intellectual development which are all vital skills necessary for a productive and happy adult life.

Play is essential to a child’s develops and grows.

Playing with a wide range of toys helps children learn a wide variety her of skills that will prepare her for adulthood. Choosing the most appropriate toys for your child is quite simple. Think about safety, take into account her preferences, is it suitable for her age and will it develop a skill? Next time you are faced with the decision of whether to play with your child or complete a chore you can choose to play knowing that you are enhancing his or her development. Your enthusiastic participation will establish a special closeness that will resonate throughout both your lives.

Kids and Teens
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