Let kids be kids
Our contributor and early childhood educator, Carrie shares about the many reasons that play is vital to a child’s development and growth…
I am often concerned when people begin to think that ‘learning through play’ is just another cliché banded around by Early Years Professionals. In fact, play is the most fundamental tool that we have to support children’s learning and development. It is becoming more widely recognised and yet I know that many parents are still concerned that their child is ‘just playing’ especially in their pre-school years. Preschools that promote play are actually supporting your child in the best way possible.
Children have an innate desire to play. I’m sure half of the time this desire can drive parents insane. After all, to us switching a light switch on and off isn’t playing, it’s just annoying and often conceived as naughty behaviour. To a child, it’s a cause and effect toy.
Play can develop children’s intellect as they explore, discover, experiment, hypothesise and solve problems. For example, when they fill containers with water they are actually wiring their brains into scientific thinking. Questioning and estimating how much water is needed is also developing their early maths skills. Water play is actually one of my favourite activities for younger children. I often find children chatting to one another quite a lot around a water tray and therefore developing their communication skills. And as an open-ended activity it can go on for hours.
Open ended activities; where there is no right or wrong way to play, are fantastic for developing children’s confidence and their self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is a child’s belief in their ability to succeed in specific situations and this can play a major role in how they go on to approach goals, tasks, and challenges. This is one of the number one things that children need in order progress later on in life. One of the facts that is becoming more and more widespread is that 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist. Jobs will no longer go to the person who knows the most but to the person with the ability to analyse information, have flexibility when facts are revised, a willingness to consider alternative perspectives and the ability to articulately communicate their ideas successfully.
When children play they are developing all of these skills. Social and emotional skills, language skills and the ability to regulate their own behaviour. The brain’s neural networks are actually enhanced when children engage in socio-dramatic and pretend play as they are able to make their own mistakes and learn how to solve problems. Children’s memory is also better developed when playing versus when being taught as they have the opportunity to develop and refine their abstract thinking skills and have their OWN ideas.
One of the most important things is that play is FUN and therefore engages and excites young minds to want to explore and discover more. In the foremost years of children’s lives, there is nothing better than this.