In today’s era of smart technology and electronic toys, we tend to ‘outsource’ playing and engaging with our children to these immobile devices. However, we under-estimate the importance of play to a child’s cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being.
Play can involve child-directed open-ended play, arts & craft, adult-directed play activities with teaching goals and outdoor play experiences!
Here are the top 5 reasons why you should start playing & learning with you child today.
1. Play is significantly more constructive with parental involvement
When interacting with your children through play, you are helping them associate experiences with language, exposing them to new vocabulary, and allowing them to explore new knowledge. It is a lot more important than just buying the most expensive toys.
As much as possible, engage with them during play! Learning can take place anywhere. Your toddler may not show it now, but he/she is observing & absorbing everything you are teaching him/her.
Point out or reinforce things you see around you, and share knowledge during your outdoor play experiences. During indoor play, give them ideas to explore new things you introduce, direct them through the activities you do together & ask them questions about what they are doing during open-ended play!
2. Children are more motivated to learn
At this young age, what is most important is to cultivate a love of learning. Children are naturally motivated to play. We don’t want to kill our children’s interests early by forcing them to work through boring worksheets, or putting them through enrichment classes they don’t enjoy! Play-based learning activities build on this motivation, using play as a context for children to explore, experiment, discover and solve problems.
3. Play encourages communication
Play allows children the opportunity to develop speech and language skills as well as listening skills and vocabulary.
You can incorporate play into anything to help him/her make sense of language he/she is exposed to everyday! Make your child's favourite book come to life by playing activities related to the story. Add finger puppet play to your child's favourite nursery rhyme. Or, simply play games to reinforce new voucabulary!
4. Play improves cognitive, critical thinking & motor skills
From birth to the age of three, children’s brains develop at a faster rate than at any other point in their entire lives. This is the time they’ll start learning and really understanding cognitive skills like paying attention, reasoning, remembering things they’ve learned and experienced, and motor skills.
Through play, they are learning new knowledge about the world, and developing their cognitive abilities. When faced with a problem during play, they are developing critical thinking (e,g. figuring out how to thread, or using a new tool)
Sometimes, even the most mundane of actions can be considered as play too, such as when a child attempts to repetitively pour water from one container to the other. This action allows him/her to master simple skills and improve psychomotor capabilities.
5. Play develops creativity
Activities like pretend play, imaginative play and arts & crafts are all great ways to engage the child and develop their creativity!
Thus, let them have full reign to explore and discover! Even if it may get messy at times (we know how it feels) ;)