"We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing" George Bernard Shaw
Children use play in all areas of their lives to learn, grow, develop and increase their understanding of the world around them. In an increasingly unpredictable world, the importance of play cannot be underestimated as a way to provide children with meaning and understanding of their environments. Play provide children with a safe space to explore feelings and experiences they may otherwise find difficult to talk about.
There are four main types of play that children engage in:
This is when children use their senses to explore their environment, learning through sight, smell, taste, touch and sound. Things like messy play, putting toys in their mouth and shaking and banging toys.
Using materials to create or build something. Learning about cause and effect such as building a tower (and knocking it down again and again!!), playing with pop up toys, using shape sorters and creating with playdough.
Children enjoy copying pretend actions with toys or people such as feeding a doll with a toy spoon, making a toy airplane fly or taking on a toy phone.
When children use their imagination in role play situation such as playing superheroes, cooking, shopping games with a till and money.
Why do children need to play?
Play has lots of benefits for children (and their carers!) which can be broken down in to three main areas:
· Reduces fear, anxiety and stress
· Creates joy, fun and shared pleasure
· Promotes and develops self esteem
· Provides a basis to explore feelings and to attach meaning to experiences
· Provides a safe space to try out a range of emotions and behaviours
· Helps to develop skills of independence and identity
· Develops increased empathy, compassion and sharing skills
· Helps children learn how to make choices
· Models relationships based on inclusion and cooperation
· Improves communication skills
· Increases attention and focus
· Positive emotions can benefit immune, cardiovascular and endocrine systems
· This can lead to decreased stress, fatigue and depression.
· Children benefit from improved motion, agility, coordination, balance and flexibility skills.
How to encourage play
There are lots of ways parents, carers and volunteers can encourage play in children, including:
· Making the play fun
· Following the child’s lead
· Modelling play to other carers and parents
· Ensuring the same eye level and eye line as the child
· Using simple and repetitive books
· Age appropriate toys
· Involving outdoor play
· Introducing one toy at a time to reduce overwhelm
"Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury; play is a necessity". Kay Redfield Jamieson
At Home Start South Warwickshire we offer a range of play-based groups for children and their families, from specific child development groups like our Peep Groups to more general Stay and Play groups. Why not come along to our newest Stay at Play group at Lighthorne Heath Village Hall, Wednesdays (term time) between 10am – 12pm. It’s a relaxed a friendly group, we provide a range of activities for babies to preschool aged children, a snack for the children and importantly good tea and coffee (plus biscuits!!) for the adults! We would love to see you there!