We lived our childhood in a paradox that playing was not the most important activity for us vis-à-vis education and learning. It was considered more as a way to have fun, relax, and entertain oneself. Hence, it never appeared very high in the list of critical necessities for children. Today all of us are so well informed, evolved, and understand the importance of play, but has this been able to bring about cogent change in the way we look at play.
“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.” – Leo F Buscaglia
Jean Piaget, a Swiss developmental psychologist, developed a theory of cognitive development of children. He viewed play integral for the development of intelligence in children, his theory argues that as children mature, their environment and play should encourage further cognitive and language development.
Children follow their own ideas and interests, their own will and way for their own reasons when they are playing. Hence, it is essential for the development of children as it contributes to their physical, cognitive and social wellbeing. They use their imagination and ‘play pretend’, learning about their emotions, interests, and ways to adapt to situations and social environment.
Whilst children grow, they learn to play through various stages of their growth. All through the stages of play, they engage in five different types of play as they evolve physically, in maturity and in their social skills.
A child opens doors to their land of fantasy when learning to imagine characters and worlds in ‘fantasy or dramatic play’, in turn fueling their creativity and imagination. Playing an intense game of soccer or basketball with others on the team, a child learns what are rules, what it takes to function as a team and most importantly the concept of winning, losing and not giving up known as ‘competitive play’. Additionally, playing outdoors a child applies gross and fine motor skills, and learning to be fit and active while engaging in ‘physical play’.
Building sandcastles on the beach or building houses using blocks or cardboard boxes, and engaging in ‘constructive play’, they learn to manipulate and put things together. While reciting their most favourite poem, singing a song, cracking jokes or engaging in arts and crafts, in ‘symbolic play’, children tend to nurture their creative side and express themselves exploring and experiencing their emotions.
United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has recognized play as a right of every child for their optimal development.
Playing has numerous benefits in the development of children – it develops creativity, imagination, dexterity, physical, cognitive and emotional strength.
As per my point of view, fun and joy are two most indisputable attributes of play. They create positive emotions, which further contributes to the well-being and good health of children improving the quality of their life. Inspire children to grow in a happy and healthy way by reinventing themselves.