Stages of Child Development: Importance of Play During Early Childhood

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Importance of Play During Early Childhood

  • Play offers many valuable opportunities to children that contribute to their development and learning. Evidence shows that play can support learning across physical, social emotional and cognitive areas of development. Particularly in the first three years, play helps children to learn about the world through listening, looking, touching, tasting and smelling. During play, children also increase their social competence and emotional maturity.

  • According to Froebel, play is not a trivial pursuit but a serious occupation for a child. It has a deep significance on the development of children. Maria Montessori also stresses free and spontaneous play as an important activity for the development of children. Piaget defines play consisting of responses repeated purely for functional pleasures.

Let us read the role of play in early childhood development:

  • Play lays the foundation for literacy. Through play children learn to make and practice new sounds. They try out new vocabulary on their own or with friends and exercise their imagination.

  • Play is learning. Play nurtures development and fulfils children’s inborn need to learn. Play takes many forms, from shaking a rattle to peek-a-boo to hide-and-seek. Play can be done by a child alone, with another child, in a group or with an adult.

  • Play gives children choice. Having enough toys or activities to choose from will allow children to express themselves.

  • Play gives children space to practice physical movement, balance and to test their own limits.

  • Play allows adults to learn children’s body language.

  • Play is fun. Learning to play well, both by themselves and with others, sets children up to be contented and sociable.

Let us now study the significance of play in promoting holistic development among children:

Physical and Motor Development

Play is significant to physical development and without it the body would not mature it normally would. In this age of obesity and processed foods, getting out and running or participating in a sport is essential to the health and liveliness of children. Play contributes to children’s fine and gross motor development and body awareness as they actively use their bodies. Learning to use a writing tool, such as a marker, is an example of fine motor development through play. When children first learn to hop, they practice hopping on different feet or just for the pure joy of hopping. Using their bodies during play also enables them to feel physically confident, secure and self-assured. Play provides an outlet for all of the energy that children have. Here, it strengthens their smaller and larger motor skills and can build stamina and strength.

Socio-Emotional Development

  • Play is vital to children’s social development. During play, children also increase their social competence and emotional maturity. Psychologists contend that school success largely depends on children’s ability to interact positively with their peers and adults. While at play, children are in control of the environment around them. This fosters self-esteem. They take part in different activities that might make them feel new emotions.

  • Since play allows children to explore their feelings, they learn how to cope with feelings such as happiness, sadness, anger, fear, excitement, frustration, and stress. Play also helps increase children’s concentration and cooperation with others.

  • Through play, children learn how to relate to one another and form ideas about how to negotiate roles, follow rules and observe group dynamics. Allowing them to create their own roles helps cultivate friendships and this is one of the most rewarding outcomes of play.

Cognitive Development

Children learn essential concepts such as counting, colors, and problem-solving through play. Their thinking and reasoning skills improve by engaging and participating in play-based activities. Since, in early childhood, ‘play’ is equivalent to ‘work,’ hence, it is important to allow them to engage in play in order to gain these new skills.

Language Development

  • Play is their arena for experimenting with and coming to understand words, syllables, sounds, and grammatical structure. During play, children learn to use language for different purposes in a variety of settings and with different people. In play with others, children often use language to ask for materials or ask a question.

  • They seek information, provide information to others and express ideas and during the play. Children of all ages enjoy playing with language because, in doing so, they feel in control of it. Language play for children during this period manifests itself in the jokes, riddles, jump rope rhymes and games they use.

Art and Aesthetic Appreciation

Art and Aesthetic Appreciation

Art and Aesthetic Appreciation

In 1958, Sigmund Freud suggested that every child at play “behaves like a creative writer, in that he creates a world of his own, or, rather, rearranges the things of his world in a new way which pleases him.” The creative person does the same as the child at play. So, play provides an opportunity to children to appreciate art and use it in their environment.

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