It may look like play when children are playing house, sailing the seven seas in their imaginary baby bath boats, chasing one another or fighting imaginary dragons. But it is much more, they are actually developing life skills and learning so many things.
Unfortunately child experts say that free play time has shrunk dramatically for children over the past three decades.
So take a read of the top 8 benefits of play and then give your children plenty of free play opportunities.
1. Play develops cognitive development.
It builds imaginative and pretend play. Children begin this type of play from about 2 years of age. Everyday objects will be transformed into something else, a pot for a drum or a wooden block will become a house. This type of play gives your child a sense of control as he interprets the drama of every day life and practices the rules of social behaviour Imaginative play is of benefit as it increases creativity, abstract thinking, problem solving, mastering new concepts, social behaviour and empathy.
2. Play promotes social skills.
As babies and toddlers, children play side by side, this is called parallel play. As preschoolers they start to interact and play together. As they play together they learn to cooperate, negotiate, take turns and share. When they are arguing over who wears the superhero cape they are also learning social skills like taking turns and patience as they wait their turn.
3. Play improves physical development.
Large motor skills improve first with play such as kicking a ball, running and pedaling a bike. Finer motor skills are practiced while playing too, picking up blocks and building a tower or learning to hold a crayon and draw. Increasing these gross and fine motor skills will carry on into everyday life activities like being able to dress and feed themselves,
4. Play helps language development.
As children are playing together they are developing language skills. They are learning new words through story telling, books and listening to other children and adults. Their communication skills will improve organically through listening to other children and adults and mimicing their pronounciation and talk.
5. Play helps with emotional development.
Before a child has the words to express their emotions in words they are expressing these emotions through physical play and behaviour. For example if a child is hit or pushed accidently by another child he may not know how to express this in words or understand the concept of it being an accident. He may reenact this behaviour in play in an attempt to process and begin to understand. It is very common for children to review this behaviur over and over again in play.
6. Play increases attention span.
Concentration and persistence are increased through play. A child building a tower with blocks may try again and again as the blocks tumble down and over time is improving his skills and able to pay more attention to the task. Physical play allows children to blow off steam and then increases their concentration levels for quieter play activities.
7. Play provides educational benefits.
Play allows for practice of new skills in an unstructured way and with minimal pressure, It also allows children to explore or discover together or on their own. It provides children with the opportunity to experiment and take risks and discover consequences and to learn new concepts and skills.
8. Its fun!
Play creates laughter, release of energy, relaxation and self expression.
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