It is a happy talent to know how to Play! ~Ralph Emerson
Laughter. Running. Jumping. Climbing. Swinging. Sliding.
All these activities play an essential role in a child’s growth and development.
Free play, where children develop their own activities, is increasingly recognized as a fundamental component in children development. Studies prove that periods of play improve social skills, response inhibition and attention in children. Activities such as running, jumping, pretend play are especially important in development of the brain. Stressing more opportunities for play could be an effective non-medicinal method to minimize challenging behavior and facilitate brain development in children.
We, a team of Occupational Therapists at REACH THERAPY CENTER FOR CHILDREN, are dedicated in bringing awareness about all the aspects of a child’s life that need attention and care. We like to think of playgrounds as nature’s many colorful, open, hands-on classrooms, which provide tremendous learning opportunities for kids of all ages. As parents and caretakers, we shouldn’t always look at play for a child as a silly, extracurricular, optional activity, but rather an essential tool in the child’s development. Research shows that outdoor free play gives kids many valuable benefits, including the development of physical, emotional, social and cognitive skills and encourages learning in a sensory rich environment.
Play offers an ideal opportunity for children to develop their skills. It also provides greater opportunities for the parents to engage fully with their children. Despite the benefits derived from play, time for free play has been markedly reduced for some children. This is clearly because the way children spend their time has changed and also because many of them are being raised in an increasingly hurried and pressured style that may limit the protective benefits they would gain from child-driven play.
Here’s the issue: It’s amazing how a 2-year old can be handed a gadget and would just know how to use it, similar to how he would just know to use a feeding bottle when handed to him. Unfortunately, most kids today spend a lot of time doing three things: watching television, playing video games and taking lessons. Kids have access to so much technology today, and it has truly decreased the amount of time they spend engaged in physical play. Its important to limit your children’s screen time and set an example of a healthy, active lifestyle that includes plenty of play. It’s the first step toward putting your children on a path to good physical health as none of the gadget games promote self-regulation, physical skills, social skills or emotional balance.
Motor and Sensory Play
If you asked kids why they run, jump, swing or climb, they’ll tell you, “…because it’s fun.” But research shows outdoor play is much more than just fun, it’s necessary to help kids be physically fit and healthy. When kids are playing, they are learning reflexes and movement control, developing fine and gross motor skills and increasing flexibility and balancing skills.
Sensory play includes any activity that stimulates your young child’s senses: touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight and hearing. Sensory activities facilitate exploration and naturally encourage children to use scientific processes while they play, create, investigate and explore.
Sensory integration theory describes play as the medium for intervention. For the past 30 years, occupational therapists have used this theory to provide direct “playful” interventions for children with SPD.
Self Confidence And Self Esteem
Outdoor play presents kids with physical challenges and free play encourages them to take risks. When kids take that risk and overcome the challenge, they develop a sense of accomplishment that leads to higher self-esteem. Free play also encourages children to develop skills that build self-confidence, such as conflict resolution and imaginative dramatic play. Co-operative play with other children and the ability to play on their own — are also important factors in building self-confidence.
Just like solitary play equally important is group play where kids learn with social roles and cultural rules, start developing social cognition and perspective taking skills. Group play isn’t just kids having fun with one another—it’s teaching them about real-life relationships. When children develop and test relationships, they learn self-control and negotiation skills. They also learn survival skills, independence and acceptable group activities to build on as they grow up. Group play helps children prepare for a lifetime of interacting with others.
A wide variety of experts agree that play is essential for a child’s brain development. Studies have shown that free play affects neurological development and determines how the neural circuits of the brain are wired. In other words, free play affects a child’s confidence, intelligence and ability to articulate. Jean Piaget, a leading child development theorist, believed that the role of play in constructing knowledge is the most clearly articulated avenue of children’s development. He once said, “Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning,” and it couldn’t be more true.
Brain and Skill Development
We are the adults we are today, partially due to free play. Play helps children develop language and reasoning skills, encourages autonomous thinking and problem solving as well as helps improve their ability to focus and control their behavior. Play also aids children to learn, discover and develop verbal and manipulative skills, judgment and reasoning and creativity. Play experiences also teach children about consequences and risk, which helps them in decision making as they grow up. Children learn and practice many of the skills they will need as adults because of free play.
In alignment with our Motto “ Helping Children Reach their full Potential ” we use child-driven play as an integral part of our intervention at REACH. We believe play is essential for learning and development for every child.
So let’s work together in understanding Play as a vital part of our children’s life, hence our’s too.
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Thank You! And don’t forget to play TODAY!