Playing is an essential part of childhood development. In fact, many experts are now saying that time spent in the playground is more beneficial than time spent in the classroom.
In this era of overscheduling, over-supervision and too much time engaging with screens, it’s thought that playing helps children develop social, emotional and physical skills, stimulates the imagination, boosts concentration and self-confidence, promotes healthy cognitive function, and probably most importantly of all, it’s fun!
Here are 4 ways play-based learning may benefit your child – and how you, as a parent, can help facilitate playtime while bringing some playfulness back into your own life, too.
1. Play helps develop language skills
Playing with objects is one of the first ways children learn how to put words and things together, and adults are a vital part of this stage of language development.
When children explore a toy, a block or even a kitchen spoon, they’re trying to make sense of what they are and what they do, and you can help them form the words they need. As they grow up and start using their words, you can help them develop their vocabulary by encouraging conversations while playing with them — and it’s also a perfect way to spend some quality time together.
2. Play encourages literacy development
, writing words, reading out loud and singing nursery rhymes are all vital forms of play, helping your child to connect letters on a page to spoken sounds and syllables.
There’s a reason Dr Seuss books are still so popular: the simple, clever rhymes make children laugh while encouraging them to learn, and your nostalgia for those books and others like them, which you probably grew up with too, means you’ll enjoy reading along with them, so it’s a win-win.
3. Play promotes imagination and creativity
When your children play pretend – from dressing up in costumes to making puppets out of socks or castles out of wet sand – they’re exercising their imagination.
This, in turn, encourages them to explore their creative side. Children with healthy imaginations have also been found to be happier and more alert and engaged
Exercising the imagination creates more neural connections , which stimulates brain function. Look at it this way: giving your child a big, empty cardboard box to play with will provide them the opportunity to ‘think outside the box’ – a skill that will help them with problem-solving later in life.
4. Play develops social and emotional skills
When your child is fixing teddy’s sore paw, the seeds of empathy are being sewn. Additionally, playing games with other children is one of the most powerful forms of play-based learning there is: it teaches them how to communicate, negotiate, build friendships, cooperate with others, and resolve conflicts.
They’ll also learn about how their actions affect their peers. Each of these developments provides your child with valuable life skills, and lays the groundwork for how they’ll cope in the ‘real world’ as adults.
So go ahead, and let the games begin!