The Importance of Play – Crucial Factor in Child’s Development

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Child grows together with games, and games grow together with child. They are unique and efficient way of natural learning. Play represents very complex activity in which children spend most of the time. Different aspect of development are manifested through a play. Child starts to know himself and persons around him, studies environment and learns through exploring. Socio – emotional growth is best seen through a play, while children playing, they express their feelings, problems solving, expressing their wishes or fears. During a play children learn the rules of behavior, their limits, self-control. While playing, they develop imagination. Children can change different roles and from that aspect play is important in improving their self-confidence.

The importance of play is best seen through developing a child´s physical capabilities, as well as cognitive capabilities. Children implement social skills’, learn about their experiences and themselves, develop interaction with others and based on that they compare and create a picture about themselves.

During a play children satisfy their need for locomotion which is in basic the most important both for physical development as for other aspects of development. Through a motion they observe, think, imagine, envisage and remember. Because of that, cognitive development is tightly connected with a physical development. Consequences of slow motion and lack of motor skills’ development can effect on cognitive development too. Physical games which are oriented on coordination development, speed, flexibility, and locomotion games urge developing of fine motor skills’.

In their earliest age from 13 to 24 months of life, play is helping children to learn language skills’. Play has an important role in a language development. Original function of words is orientation in space, separating specific contents from wider aspects. Words in original represent a part of context (for example, when you say to children “bottle” they are going to look over the room to find an object which is called “bottle”). In early age children make difference between meaning of object and what they actually see.

In other words, meaning can be separated from what children actually see, IE separated from an object. So, for example plastic cube can represent a phone. Play represents a transition between separating thoughts (meaning of words) from object. Through a play children learn how to give things a meaning, IE develops symbolic preoccupation. The role of a play is transition between situational constraints (focus on concrete situation), according to independence to real situation. While playing, things get meaning, words mark real objects. When child start going to school, play is converted into internal processes, it becomes internal speech, logical memory and abstract thoughts.

Through a play children are learning basic mathematical operations such as addition, subtraction, equality, calculation, separation, classification and measurement. While playing children learn language. Listen to other children and adults, learns new words, exchange words and sentences. Children who are motivated to play show greater language development from children who are showing less interest in a play.

Processes That Mark Children´s Play

Cognitive processes

  • Organization – the ability to verify stories with logical time frames and patterns. Verifying details and complexity.
  • Divergent behavior – ability to generate a huge number of different ideas, themes or symbols
  • Symbolism – ability to transform objects into mental representations and other objects
  • Fantasies/pretend to – enables them to be in a different time on a different place

Emotional processes

  • Expression of emotions – ability to express pleasant and unpleasant emotions in pretending game
  • Expression of emotional content (fear of the dentist) – in pretending game child express emotions which occur in real life situations
  • Enjoying in a play
  • Regulation of emotions – managing of pleasant and unpleasant emotions. Cognitive and emotional processes are included in regulation of emotions.
  • Integration of emotions in cognitive context – for example, allowed roughness in some sports

Interpersonal processes

  • Empathy – care of others
  • Interpersonal schemes/creating a presentation of relationship me – adults, contradistinction me – other people, creating of thrust in other people
  • Communication – ability to communicate, expression of ideas and emotions to others

Solving problems and conflict situations

  • Researching problems and conflicts – attempting to solve problems

Cognitive, emotional and interpersonal processes during a play are related with creative thinking, problem solving, socializing. These adaptive capabilities have important role in children accommodation.

importance of play

Play Is Essential For Child´s Development

Play is essential for development because it contributes to cognitive, physical, social and. Emotional well-being of children and youth. Play also offer an ideal opportunity for parents to engage fully with their children. Despite the benefits derived from play from both children and parents, time for free play has been markedly reduced for some children. This report addresses a variety of factors that have reduced play, including a hurried lifestyle, changes in family structure, and increased attention to academics and enrichment activities at the expanse of recess or free child-centered play.

Play is so important that it has been recognized as a right of every child! This birthright is challenged by forces including child labor and exploitation practices, war and neighborhood violence, and the limited resources available to children living in poverty. However, even those children who are fortunate enough to have abundant available resources and who live in relative peace may not be receiving the full benefits of play.

The Five Types of Play

Given the general difficulty with defining play, and the recognition of its complexity, it is not surprising that there have been numerous attempts to categories different types of play. For every aspect of children’s development, there is a form of play. However, in the contemporary psychological literature the various kinds of play are generally divided into five broad types based upon the developmental purposes which each serves, partly arising from the evolutionary analyses to which we have referred above, and how each relates to and supports children’s learning. These types are commonly referred to as physical play, play with objects, symbolic play, pretense / socio-dramatic play and games with rules. Although each type of play has a main developmental function or focus, arguably all of them support aspects of physical, intellectual and socio-economical growth.

1. Physical Play

This type of play was the earliest to evolve and can be observed in some reptiles and amphibians and most, if not all, mammals. In human children it includes active exercise play (jumping, climbing, dancing, skipping, bike ridding and ball play), rough and rumble (with friends, siblings or parents / guardians) and fine motor practice (sewing, coloring, cutting, junk modeling and manipulating action and construction toys.

Exercise play begins to emerge during the second year of life and typically occupies around 20% of children’s behavior by the age of four or five years. The evidence suggests that this type of play is related to children’s developing whole body and hand-eye coordination, and is important in building strength and endurance.

The most extensively researched aspect of physical play, however, is rough and tumble play. It includes chasing, grappling, kicking, wrestling and rolling on the ground and appears to have as a mechanism through which children learn to control aggression. It emerges slightly later than exercise play an is typical among preschool children. However, like the most types of play, it continues to be enjoyed, usually between family members and close friends, right into adulthood.

There is a concern that children, largely as a consequence of the pressures of urban living, with the loss of natural environments and concerns about safety, are over-supervised and do not have the opportunities for “risky” outdoor physical play that supports their developing independence, resourcefulness and self-regulation.

Fine motor skill play refers to a wide range of activities which support young children’s development of their fine motor-skills hand and finger coordination skills’. These activities are often solitary, can be beneficially supported by an adult and due to their absorbing nature, help children develop their concentration and preservance skills’.

2. Play With Objects

This second type of play is also widely observed in primates and in humans concerns children’s developing explorations, as young scientist, of the physical world and the objects the find within it. Play with objects begins as soon as infant can grasp and hold on to them; early investigative behaviors include mouthing/bitting, rotating while looking, rubbing/stroking, hitting and dropping. This might be described as sensori-motor play when the child is exploring how objects and materials feel and behave.

As with all others type of play, play with objects often also incorporates others types of play, as it clearly has physical and manipulative aspects and often, in children, is carried out within pretense or socio-dramatic context. When young children are making or building, they are also often developing a story or narrative. It is a relatively well-researched type of play, as it is distinctly related to the development of thinking, reasoning and problem-solving skills’.

While playing with objects, children set themselves goals and challenges, monitor their progress towards them, and develop an increasing repertoire of cognitive and physical skills’ and strategies. Play with objects is also particular associated with the production of “private speech”, with children commonly commentating on their activity. This appears to have the function of helping the child to maintain their attention, keep their goals for the activity in mind, monitor their progress, make strategic choices regarding ways to proceed, and generally regulate themselves through the task.

As a consequence, construction and problem-solving play is also associated with the development of preservance and a positive attitude towards challenge. Arising from these findings, a number of studies have investigated the use of constructional play as a kind of therapy with children in clinical groups characterized by problems with aspects of self-regulation, such as autism and ADHD.

3. Symbolic Play

As we discussed above, humans are uniquely equipped to use a wide variety of symbolic systems including spoken language, reading and writing, number, various visual media (painting, drawing, collage) music and so on. Not surprisingly, during the first five years of life, when children are beginning to master these systems, these aspects of their learning are an important element within their play. This type of play supports their developing technical abilities to express and reflect upon their experience, ideas and emotions.

Play with language starts very early in life with children in life with children under the age of one-year-old playing with sounds, and, as they grow older, particular playing with the sounds of language or languages they hear around them. This play is very active process and quickly develops into making up new words, playing with rhymes, and eventually young children’s love of puns and other jokes with language.

Extensive research has clearly established that this type of play is powerful support for developing language abilities and, crucially, through its support for phonological awareness, impacts upon the ease with which young children develop early literacy skills’.

Musical play is another very under researched area, despite being an ubiquitous and highly significant form of play in all human cultures. From a very early age, children sing, dance and delight in exploring and making sounds of all kinds, with their own bodies and with all kinds of objects. A recent review of research in this area concluded that it seem likely that musical play, partly as a consequence of its powerfully social and interactive characteristics, supports a wide range of children’s developing abilities, including those related to social interaction, communication, emotion understanding, memory, self-regulation and creativity.

4. Pretense/Socio-Dramatic Play

In the urbanized, technologically advanced modern world, this is clearly the most relevant type of play among young children., emerging around the age of one year old. It is also the most heavily researched. High-quality pretend play has repeatedly been shown to be very closely associated with the development of cognitive, social and academic abilities. Studies have reported the impact of the play world experience on narrative skills’ in five to seven years old, of pretense play on deductive reasoning and social competence, and socio-dramatic play on improved self-regulation among young children are prone to be highly impulsive.

This type of play often characterized and perceived as free play. Paradoxically, however, a number of studies have show that, in fact, it makes some greatest demands on children’s self-restraint, or self-regulation. During socio-dramatic play, in particular, children are obliged to follow the social rules governing the character they are portraying.

An aspect of socio-dramatic play which often causes concerns among parents and teacher is that related to play with guns. However, the search evidence suggest that these concerns are misplaced and that attempts by adults to discourage or forbid them are generally counter-productive. Gun play, similar to rough and rumble, is easily distinguishable from real aggression or violence. In this kind of play, as in all other aspects of socio-dramatic play, children are developing their cooperative and social skills’ in contexts which are salient to their interests, and which arise from their real and vicarious experience.

5. Games With Rules

Young children are strongly motivated to make sense of their world and, as part of this, they are very interested in rules. As a consequence, from a very young age, they enjoy games with rules, and frequently invent their own. As well as helping children to develop their understandings of rules, the main developmental contribution of playing games derives from their essentially social nature.

While playing games with their best friends, siblings and parents, young children are learning a range of social skills’ related to sharing, taking turns, understanding others’ perspective and so on.

The use of electronic and computer games by today’s children is another particular area of anxiety for parents and teachers. The concerns here relate to violence and to the addictive nature of some games. However, the evidence in this are is equivocal. Playing video games did not appear to take place at the expense of the children’s other leisure activities, social integration, and school performance. There was also no significant relationship between the amount of time children spent on video games and aggressive behavior. Further more, a positive relationship was found between time spent on video games and child’s intelligence.

What We Learned From This Article?

Play is a cherished part of childhood that offers children important developmental benefits and parents the opportunity to fully engage with their children. However, multiple forces are interacting to effectively reduce many children’s ability to reap the benefits of play. As we strive to create the optimal developmental milieu for children, it remains imperative that play is included along with academic and social enrichment opportunities and that safe environments be made available to all children,

 

10 thoughts on “The Importance of Play – Crucial Factor in Child’s Development

  • You’ve given such as in-depth write-up on children play. It didn’t occur to me on all the processes on children play till i read your post. I miss those time when my girl was little and she is a teenagers now. Play time is absolutely important to children and I’m glad that you’ve covered them in your post. It’s a good article, well done.

    • Hi Jeffrey! Thanks for your opinion.

      Many people don’t understand what is the crucial role of play. Today we have all kinds of games, apps and toys that teaches your child nothing. Parents often give their children phones, tablets… to play just to be quiet. That is a big mistake, child needs to go outside, to run, to jump, to fall… all those things are important in their development.

      Sitting in a house and playing games on screen is not what child should do, they will learn nothing that way! People should be taught some things before they get children, and not everyone should have a children!

  • Hey Marko,

    This is all great stuff and clearly you are passionate about what you write. I see today that too many kids are so invested in technology and tablets and TV that they sometimes, unfortunately, don’t get as many natural play experiences as maybe me and you had at the same age. Great stuff! Keep it up!

    Cheers,

    Max

    • Hi Max, thank you for commenting.

      I used to play video games too when I was younger, and it is fun and has its advantages. Problem is, parents give their kids smartphones before they even understand what is smartphone or tablet.

      Children should be taught how to play outside with their friends first, later you can allow them to play video games.

      But we cannot force people to teach their kids in a good way, we can only show them on our examples. That is the reason why I wrote this article, and created this website.

  • What’s your take on exploratory games, where children between the ages of 5 -10 spending a lot of time checking out nature in their neighborhood, especially those living in suburban or rural areas. These children would turn everything into games, whether its collecting fallen leaves, pebbles, small insects, etc. How much leeway should parents allow their kids in this kind of games and what are some developmental effects this has on children?

    • Helloo there!

      You are right, we just need to let our children outside, and they will find the way to play and communicate. Even if they don’t have any toys.

  • What a nice post you wrote! I really enjoyed reading it and I could not be silent about your post so I decided to leave my comment here and say Thank You! For sharing this quality post with others.
    Actually this is exactly the information that I was looking for information about the child’s development and when I landed to your website and read this post, it answered all my questions in details.
    So I’m happy that you decided to write about this topic and share it with people. It’s very useful and can definitely be used as a great source for everyone who is interested in this topic.
    I will come back to your website again for sure and I’m looking forward to reading your new posts.)

    Thanks!

    • Hi Ali,

      I’m very glad that I helped you with this post. I’m trying my best to let people understand how play is important in our children lives. It’s not everything in their toys and computers. Children would go outside and play, but it’s up to their parents to take first step.

  • Hello Marko, I’m really impressed by your knowledge and understanding of child psychology. I strongly feel that you want to provide happiness to the children through constructive amusement with wooden toys. One post in particular has taken all my attention, The Importance of Play – Crucial Factor in Child’s Development, where you talk about ADHD. I am a Biochemist and I use since more than 10 years essential oils. I am providing a cure to a son of my colleague who has ADHD and it is working. For your info, the oils are Vetiver, Ylang Ylang and the most effective one is Cannabis oils(5%). If we could combine Toys and Oils we could achieve great results.
    I will certainly follow your journey at WA.
    Cheers
    Vincent

  • I’m really impressed by your knowledge and understanding of child psychology. I strongly feel that you want to provide happiness to the children through constructive amusement with wooden toys. One post in particular has taken all my attention, The Importance of Play – Crucial Factor in Child’s Development, where you talk about ADHD. I am a Biochemist and I use since more than 10 years essential oils. I am providing a cure to a son of my colleague who has ADHD and it is working. For your info, the oils are Vetiver, Ylang Ylang and the most effective one is Cannabis oils(5%). If we could combine Toys and Oils we could achieve great results.

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