Play is fun for children. It helps them learn and explore about themselves, and the world. They say play is the work of children — and it’s true! It contributes just as much to a child’s healthy growth as eating fruits and vegetables, reading aloud to a child, and getting enough sleep.
There is no right or wrong way to play. A child will play with friends and other times, on their own. They may speak aloud or be silent in their thoughts. And of course, play can be messy or risky, or quiet and relaxed. Play is a child’s main job.
Play has a profoundly good impact on young children’s mental, emotional, and physical health. A child’s brain develops through play. A young child experiences the world through play by engaging all of their senses. Their brain is growing because new and repeated experiences encourage brain cells to connect. Play is not frivolous; it improves brain structure and function, which enables us to focus on goals while avoiding distractions.
Children exercise their imaginations when playing. They invent imaginary games or lose themselves in made-up settings. Children build their confidence by acting out various scenarios. They establish their own norms and learn to abide by them or modify them. These are practical abilities for navigating life and establishing connections with people.
Children manage their own play while they are engaged in unstructured play. They are not constrained by adult-directed activities or schedules. Through unstructured play, they have the chance to establish the rules and exercise authority in their domain of play. Unstructured play fosters a child’s brain’s healthy development. The brain’s neuronal connections are boosted and strengthened by it. We use these neural pathways in the brain when we are thinking. Unstructured play is also beneficial for developing and preserving the prefrontal cortex. This area affects how a child learns, handles challenges, and learns about their surroundings.
Playing frequently and regularly can assist in lessening irritation, stress, and worry. It also fosters happiness and self-confidence. Play is a great way to learn. Children acquire the skills to deal with their environment through play in a way that they can comprehend and process.
They investigate group dynamics, sharing, negotiating, dispute resolution, and speaking up for oneself. Children learn about communication through play. Even though at a young age they are unable to speak, they can practice conversation back and forth! Their understanding of themselves and their place in the community is aided by sharing stories from books, whether verbally or through pretend play.
Games and toys are also beneficial. Playing with little toys aids in hand muscle development.
Playing “I Spy” and other concentration games improves your ability to observe and pay attention. By assisting kids in comprehending and using what they’re reading, these abilities improve reading comprehension.
Learning how to play with others and playing independently are both crucial life skills. Children benefit from having a greater sense of independence. Children who are at ease playing alone feel more capable of taking on other duties and finding out their place in the group. Even future group socializing benefits from developing these skills. Children who are playing alone can pick up social clues by watching how groups interact.
Children’s bodies are programmed to be active, whether they are aware of it or not. Physical play, which includes all forms of play that keep kids moving, is something that they require a lot of. It helps them develop their body awareness and fortifies neural connections. It’s a terrific sort of exercise that encourages kids to be active and healthy.
Throughout a child’s life, regular, energetic play has beneficial and extensive benefits on their health. Regardless of a child’s skills, interests, or chances, physical play benefits kids. Including improved reflexes, movement, motor skills, balancing, and stronger muscles, all while having fun!
Kids don’t need fancy toys or certificates to play. They need time, space and freedom to explore the ideas that interest them. No matter what it looks like, when children play, they learn.
Meet Our Contributor — Toni Talijancich
Toni is the General Manager for Play Aotearoa and a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Otago. Part of her work is to help play be recognized as being vital to a healthy and happy childhood, and to encourage a country where kids are free to explore, learn, and thrive through play, their way. Her work through Play Aotearoa is achieved by focusing on inclusivity, awareness, education, policy and empowering our communities with excitement, supporting with sensitivity, and leading with intention, to advocate for the child’s right to play and a play-friendly Aotearoa New Zealand. One of the most crucial components of a child’s life is playing. Our work is play-focused and ensures the voice of the child is heard. This is achieved by ensuring play is a top priority.