Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Why play is important

Play plays an important role in the physical, mental and social development of children; facilitating muscle development and body control, development of the senses, brain stimulation and thought and logic processes, and understanding social norms and accepted behaviours.

Physical development is enhanced through active play like running, jumping, climbing or dancing, and through quieter activities like drawing, doing puzzles, building LEGO or tea parties.

Gross Motor Development involves the larger muscles and muscle groups, like arms and legs, and is responsible for the ability to perform activities like walking and climbing, and also balance, special awareness and control of body parts.

Unstructured play, or imaginative/pretend play, on playground equipment or the furniture at home is a fantastic way to enhance gross motor skills, even if it does appear chaotic!

Fine Motor Skills are developed through use of smaller muscles, and more refined activities, like drawing, threading beads or constructing LEGO. Play that requires the use of smaller body parts, like fingers and encourages the use of various grips or movements helps strengthen the muscles and aids development of control. This is essential for learning writing, for example, later on at school.

Play doh and tea parties, train track construction and doing Barbie’s hair all require fine motor control.

They also aid in mental development, where thought processes and logic may need to be applied. Children learn how shapes fit, or which way an object needs to face in order for the play to work.

Cause and effect is also achieved as they begin to understand that pushing a particular button, for example, will result in a specific noise. Learning to comprehend their actions have consequences is extremely beneficial for mental development.

Play with others offers opportunities to learn social norms, sharing and appreciation for others. Comprehension of rules – both for the game and social rules – are addressed and children learn to work together towards a similar outcome and enjoyment.

Although play can be noisy or fraught with potential danger, it is essential for the growth and development of children physically, mentally and socially.

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