When you think of Play, you think of Laughter. Running. Jumping. Climbing. Swinging. Sliding and having a happy carefree environment. There’s much more going on than just the fun.
Research has shown the benefits of an outdoor environment which give children valuable benefits, including the development of physical, emotional, social and cognitive skills.
When children are asked why they like to run, swing or climb, the children will often tell you “because it’s fun”. It is important to help children understand that they should be physically fit and healthy. While the children are playing, they are learning reflexes and movement control, developing fine and gross motor skills and increasing flexibility and balancing skills.
When the children are taking part in physical play, they are building stronger muscles and improving bone density, improving heart and lung function and preventing obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol.
The children have many ways to access technology today, which can truly reduce the amount of time they spend engaged in physical play. Parents, are one of the best supporters for physical exercise and play by reducing the amount of time children spend with technology and set an example of a healthy, active lifestyle that includes a lot of play occasions.
“ Children will reveal what kind of person they are during play”. (Ovid Roman Poet 427-347 BC).
Play has an important role to a child’s emotional growth, and research has highlighted three important areas where play benefits children in developing emotionally: building self-confidence and esteem; experimenting with various emotions; releasing emotions from trauma.
Self-confidence and Self Esteem
Playground equipment presents children with stimulation and physical challenges and play allows children to take risks. When children take risks and accomplish these challenges, this leads to children developing skills to build self-confidence. Social development with children and the ability to independently play are a contribution to building confidence.
Experimenting with Emotions
Research shows that children use free play to express their emotions and learn to deal with their fears and scary experiences. Free play allows children to fully express themselves without anyone or anything holding them back.
Children use their imagination and pretend play to experience different feelings and outcomes. These experiences and emotions change as children become older.
Releasing Emotions from Trauma
Free play has proven to be therapeutic for children who are emotionally distressed from traumatic situations like child abuse, family disruptions and/or the experience of natural disaster or war. Studies show that when playing, children can release emotions and “play out” their traumas so they can share feelings freely.
The garden is a fantastic environment for children to develop their social skills and together play fun and imaginary games that they may not be able to play at home.
Playing alone (Solitary play) helps children socially as it develops a strong sense of independence promotes creativity and imagination.
Children learn using social roles and cultural rules, develop the appropriate cooperation skills.
Group play educates the children about real life relationships. When children develop and test their relationship, they learn self-control and negotiation skills. Group play helps children prepare for a lifetime of interacting with others.
Play affects a child’s confidence, intelligence and ability to articulate. Jean Piaget, a leading child development theorist who believed that the role of play in constructing knowledge is the most clearly articulated avenue of children’s development. Fred Rogers, who once said, “Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning,” and it couldn’t be truer.
Brain and Skills Development
Play supports the children develop their language and reasoning skills, encourages their thinking and problem-solving skills to improve their ability to focus and control their behaviour.
Children’s Play also helps children to learn discovery and develop verbal and manipulative skills, judgement and reasoning and creativity. Play experiences also teach children about consequences and risk, which helps them in decision making as they grow up.
Games teach children how to plan and make decisions; and make and understand strategy, rules and objectives. Games encourage the ability to focus and lengthen their attention span.
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