Play has always been central to a child’s life. While play looks different at different ages and in different contexts, the purpose of play remains the same; it is how a child makes sense of and connects to their world. In the past few decades, theorists, pedagogists and experts in early childhood have been advocating for the importance of play.
Development psychologist Lev Vygotsy famously said “a child’s greatest achievements are possible in play…” He emphasized that play activities involving components like creating an imaginary situation, taking on and acting out roles and following a set of rules provides a wider background for changes in children’s needs and consciousness.
While playing may seem like a fun activity that helps children to unwind and relax, it enriches children’s brains, social skills and physical health and moulds them into adults who are able to navigate seamlessly through a range of personal and professional environments.
The basic architecture of the brain is built in early childhood. 80% of a child’s brain is developed by the age of three and 90% by the age of five. Scientists have found that playing triggers the secretion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is an essential substance for the growth and maintenance of brain cells.
Play has been found to cause modulation in the prefrontal cortex, which is the brain’s executive control center. The prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain that regulates emotions, solves problems and makes plans.
Jaak Panksepp, a researcher at the Washington State University has said “the function of play is to build pro-social brains, social brains that know how to interact with others in positive ways.” He adds that play activates the whole neocortex, the part of the brain which governs sensory perception, a generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning and conscious thought.
A baby playing peek-a-boo, shaking a rattle or babbling is learning to express, explore and try out new things through their own ways of play. Stacking and unstacking blocks allow toddlers to uncover math and science concepts such as shapes, and other essential skills such as problem-solving, motor skills, communication and much more.
Physical play activities like playing ball games, running, climbing, dancing and jumping help develop flexibility, gross motor skills, coordination skills, strength and movement in children. Moreover, these activities also help build on children’s social skills like cooperation and communication.
Making objects out of clay or dough, drawing and painting can foster self-expression, imagination and creativity. Shape sorters, building blocks and jigsaws are the games that help develop logic and reasoning skills and habit of putting things in order
By playing musical instruments, children can develop a liking for math and rhythm.
Children are intuitively imaginative and build a variety of different imaginative situations for themselves. They will happily talk to someone over their toy phone or pretend to be a teacher, a doctor or a police officer. This type of play enhances a child’s imagination, creative thinking and ability to solve divergent problems, which is linked to intellectual development.
Research proves that pretend play or dramatic play enables a greater understanding of the outer world in children and increases their social competency in further life. With imagination and a willing playmate, they can come with their own games and scenarios.
When children play with each other or adults, their vocabulary and language skills are developed. They will learn new words without even realizing it and start using language to communicate meaning, which increasingly becomes sophisticated by age 4.
Play inculcates a sense of self-confidence in children. Giving your children plenty of play opportunities whether at home or child care center strengthens their conviction in their abilities. The experience of play and the joy they gain from it boosts their self-confidence.
At Aurora Early Education, our educational programs exceed mere early education and care and focus on providing a holistic learning environment that promote overall development of children.
As well as impacting specific centres of the brain, play triggers the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which contributes to the growth and maintenance of brain cells. (Gordon et al, 2003)
Whether you perceive play as learning or fun activity, the numerous skills that children learn through play are a better indicator of long-term success. Give your children plenty of playtime and let them explore and expand the concepts of life steadily.
At Aurora early childhood learning centre, we believe in the power of play. Our focus is on driving children’s intrinsic motivation by encouraging them to learn through meaningful play in a caring environment. We follow a play-based curriculum, with every experience set up to encourage learning through play.