Children need to play. It’s a simple statement but one that has a powerful impact on the healthy development of a child. According to recent research, 75 percent of brain development occurs after birth. Play aids in the brain’s development by stimulating and forming connections between nerve cells. This process helps with the advancement of fine and gross motor skills, development of language, social skills, empathy, problem solving and creativity. Play has often been described as the “work” of preschool aged children.
As children move into the elementary grades the need for play does not diminish. At an age when spare time is occupied by lessons, organized sports and time in front of a screen, the need for undirected play is just as necessary. Through child-driven play one can explore areas of interest, problem solve, develop mastery and confidence. Whether children are playing with another child or an adult they are given an opportunity to learn how to work together, negotiate, resolve conflict and advocate for themselves.
Through play children are experimenting and developing an understanding of fundamental science and math concepts. Their experiments early in life will enhance their understanding of fractions, physics and more. By building a tower with blocks you may help your child learn the fine skill of balancing or model how to handle a frustrating experience. Your face to face interaction with your child says “You are important and I value what you are interested in.”
As our nation faces an obesity dilemma the role of large motor play in a child’s healthy development is critical. Not every individual is a natural born athlete. Not every child enjoys (or thrives) in organized sports. However, every child can enjoy the experience of digging in dirt, going to a park, riding a bike or going on a nature hunt.
Parents can and should play an important part in children’s play. You are your child’s first teacher and much of that teaching happens through play. By actively engaging in pretend play you may learn a lot about what your child is thinking or feeling. Play helps your child learn the rules of your family and what is expected of him or her. As children grow, play helps them learn how to act in society.
As a parent what could/should you do? Play! Play with your child. Let them play alone. Arrange for play dates. Bring them to Oklahoma WONDERtorium. Allow them to use their imagination! Enjoy the value of play for yourself. So go play!