The Importance of Play for Children
Children learn through play and supporting this learning in those critical first five years of life is one of our most valuable jobs (and pleasures) as a parent. Children play to learn about the world around them, testing theories, being creative, using different muscles and extending their imaginations. They learn who they are and how the world works, developing many skills and building strong neural pathways in the brain. Remember how hard it was to catch a ball? Probably not, because you now have a very strong connection built up over many experiences. A baby’s brain triples its weight in the first three years of life and then only increases by about another 20% by adulthood. It is such an exciting time of life, watching our babies learn something new every day!
In our Life Choices workshops, we discussed how children sometimes need to be shown how to play, having a parent play alongside for a little while until the child has the confidence to play alone. At other times, children can be left to decide for themselves how they will play. Toddlers will often ‘check in’ for reassurance and then continue happily playing.
Play can be organised activities with specific toys, however, play can also be stacking and dropping things, pulling items, hiding items in and out of objects, as well as outside activities like playing on the playground or simply collecting leaves, sticks and pebbles. Unstructured play where children are free to investigate or use their imagination is often most valuable.