Play is one aspect that is common in every child’s life. The importance of play for children is huge. It is so much more than a recreational activity for them. Play is essential for children; it contributes to healthy child development cognitively, socially, and physically (McFadden, 2010). Because of this, it is vital for parents, caregivers, and educators to recognize the importance of, and to encourage play. Why is play so important? Recently at the preschool level, there has been a push to reduce the amount of play time and increase the amount of time spent on academic work.
With the increased academic work load that is being placed on school-aged children today, this appears to be a good idea; however, the lack of play time for children is actually detrimental to healthy child development. Children see play as fun. They do not engage in playful activities with the thought of learning social or mental skills, but play benefits these areas of development, as well as several others. When children play, they learn how to share and “be nice. ” Learning these skills early will enable them to be able to get along with others in adulthood.
Children also learn to interact with their surrounding environment. This interaction allows children to begin to make sense of their world (McFadden, 2010). Cooperation and good communication skills are essential in every profession and activity a child may encounter as an adult. By communicating with others, a child begins to understand the importance of language. They learn how to express their ideas and accept the ideas presented by others. Children also develop communication skills that help them resolve conflict and negotiate with thers.
From infancy, children display the desire to gain control of their physical behaviors so they can become able to manipulate objects of interest (Feeney, 2010). Play contributes to this physical development and refinement of motor skills. The vigorous activity of a child’s play builds strength, stamina, and skills they will need for healthy physical development. When children are left to decide how they will play, the often gravitate toward physical activities such as running and chasing each other or playing catch with balls.
This active play results in physically fit children and physical fitness is one of the key components in healthy child development (McFadden, 2010). As children develop the control of large muscle groups as a result of physical activities, they also refine fine motor skills and control. Building with blocks, painting, and playing with clay refine tactile dexterity, which children will need when they learn to write and progress in school. Play also has a role in the emotional development of children.
Children at play feel in control of their world, practicing important shills that lead them to a sense of mastery of their environment and self. They learn to master their fears, resolve internal conflicts, and to act out anger, hostility, and frustration (Feeney, 2010). Often, play is used by therapists and social workers to help children overcome and work through abuse or trauma. As an educator, there are several ways to incorporate play into learning activities. Because children are innately curious, they enjoy investigating and discovering new things.
Teachers should use this curiosity when introducing science and scientific ideas. Children cannot understand complicated scientific ideas; however, they love learning about plants, animals, and other objects within their environment. Science in early childhood education encompasses life science, physical science, and earth science (Allen, 2007). An activity to explore earth science is called “will it float? ” Children select different objects from around the classroom and hypothesis whether the object will float on water.
After making their guesses, the children get to test their theories by floating the chosen objects in the classroom water table. Children love this activity because they get to play with water, but the activity actually teaches them about weight, volume, and buoyancy of different things. Teaching young children mathematic fundamentals is made simpler when the lessons are presented as a fun activity. Math instruction in early childhood classroom settings must involve concrete ideas, and be naturally suited to the child’s play (Gabbert, 2009).
Teaching children the idea of measurements can begin in the preschool setting. A great way to teach measurement is by adding measuring spoons and cups to sand and water tables. In the activity, children are allowed to scoop out sand or water from the tables and place their “measurements” into separate containers to see how many scoops will be needed to fill the new space. The educators should tell them the amounts they are placing in the new space to encourage the child’s understanding of the activity. The importance of play in the early childhood classroom cannot be underestimated.
It is the duty of an early childhood education teacher to encourage and allow students to play all throughout the day. Play should be incorporated into everyday lessons. Young children are naturally curious and energetic. Incorporating play into their day will allow them to “absorb” more of what is being taught. Not all children, especially young students, learn well by sitting and listening to a lecture. Being allowed to play helps children see learning as an enjoyable thing. Play also ensures they develop other skills: motor, social, emotional, needed to become successful in their school careers, and beyond.
Courtney from Study Moose
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