Play is an essential piece of early childhood development. It is how children learn about the world around them and develop many skills they will need to succeed in life. In this blog post, we will discuss the areas of development that are fostered during play, and how each of them contributes to a child's success. So read on to discover the benefits of play in your young learner's early development!
What is Play?
Play is a term that can be difficult to define. It has been described as "purposeless activity" or "activity for its own sake". However, most experts would agree that play is more than just these things. In fact, play is actually very important for early childhood development. Play is a way for children to learn about the world around them. It allows them to explore, experiment, and take risks in a safe environment. Through play, children learn how to interact with others, solve problems, and make decisions. They also develop their creativity and imagination. At the end of the day, play is an opportunity for children to learn.
Learning through play can look different for different age groups. Toddlers often learn through exploration and experimentation, while you may see preschoolers learning through play that involves stories and creative imagination. Elementary school-aged children tend to learn through playing games and exploring new concepts. It is important to remember that all of these activities are ways for children to learn.
The Benefits of Play in Early Childhood Development
Now that we have a better understanding of what play is, let's take a closer look at some of the benefits it can offer. Play can help children in many different areas of development, including:
- Physical Development
- Cognitive Development
- Social-Emotional Development
- Speech and Language Development
Play is a great way to stimulate children's physical development. Through play, they learn how to move their bodies in different ways, use muscles correctly, and explore new objects and environments as they develop their fine and gross motor skills. Gross motor skills involve the whole body and are needed for activities such as crawling, walking, running, and climbing. Fine motor skills involve other smaller movements in the hands, wrist, and fingers, that allow young children to pick up small objects, use a pencil, draw, and tie shoelaces.
Playing with toys like puzzles significantly impacts children's physical development. When playing with puzzles, such as our Alphabet Matching Puzzles, children not only improve their fine motor skills, but their hand-eye coordination as well. Hand-eye coordination is needed to perform everyday tasks such as brushing their hair and teeth, and it is also important for playing sports and learning to read and write in school. As you can see, play is a great way for children to stimulate their physical development.
Play also helps children with their cognitive development. Cognitive development is the development of a child’s ability to think and reason. During play, children learn how to think creatively and solve problems. They learn to think through their senses and interaction with their environment. For example, a toddler may learn to think through trial and error.....round-bottom building pieces just won’t fit into square holes no matter how hard I try! From ages 6 to 12, children learn to think in more concrete ways such as combining, transforming, separating, etc. Kids also develop skills such as concentration, sequencing, and early math and reading skills while they engage in play.
Puzzles and memory games are great brain-building tools that can be used to develop skills such as memory, concentration, and spatial awareness. Spatial awareness helps kids understand how objects move. Building toys are great for this as well! All of these abilities are important during their formal schooling and beyond.
One of the most important benefits of play is its ability to help children develop social and emotional skills. Play allows children to learn how to interact with others. They learn social skills such as sharing, taking turns, and cooperating, and how to express their emotions. Young children also learn to problem solve and negotiate. These skills are essential as they begin to develop friendships and communicate with others.
Play also provides a safe space young children to experiment with new emotions and behaviors. Dramatic play is a great way for children to develop important social-emotional skills. For example, when children play dress-up, they may try out different roles and personalities. This allows them to explore different emotions and figure out how they feel comfortable expressing themselves. When children pretend to be someone else, it also allows them explore other view points and consider how how other people might feel in certain situations. This type of play also helps children express their emotions in a healthy way.
Speech and Language Development
Finally, play can help children develop speech and language skills. Play encourages interaction between children and others and allows for rich language experiences, dialogue building, and reciprocal interactions (serve-and-return). During play, children often learn new words and how to use them. They also learn how to follow directions, ask questions, and make requests. All of these are important early language skills.
Play also provides a great opportunity for parents and caregivers to model correct language usage. For example, when playing with blocks, you can model proper grammar by saying things such as, “I’m going to put the blue block on top of the red block.” You can also use different types of play to teach new vocabulary words. For example, when playing with animals, you can name the animal and describe its characteristics to encourage your child to pick up some new vocabulary.
As you can see, play is essential for early childhood development. It helps kids in many different areas, including physical, cognitive, social-emotional, and language development, and each of these areas play a pivotal role in different aspects of your child's growth and development. Play truly provides a great opportunity for children to learn about themselves and the world around them. So the next time your child asks to play, go ahead and say yes! It's good for them. 🙂
If you're looking for new toys to enhance your child's play time, check out our Launch Collection that features our We Are Family - Memory Matching Game, our Alphabet Matching Puzzles, and our Black History Flashcards.
They are great resources that are not only fun, but will also help your child develop important skills through play!