There are few things in life more enchanting than watching a small child chat away to an imaginary friend, race their pedal cars around the garden or create their own magical world out of Lego.
But whilst watching children of all ages enjoy themselves is every parent’s delight, play actually serves a very important purpose in their development. And depriving children of the ability to relax and play can be a barrier to them reaching their full potential.
- It isn’t just humans
Play is not just crucial for humans, it also plays a vital role in the animal kingdom too. Whilst you are unlikely to see a lion focussed on a Lego tower any time soon, their cubs nevertheless have their own way of playing.
The sight of a puppy chasing its own tail is really rather comical whilst a kitten batting at a ball of wool is just endearing. However, these are all ways which animals practice their skills indirectly and learn the limits of their own body. Research in animals has also shown that brain connections develop rapidly during periods of play and experts believe the same process occurs in humans.
- Play isn’t a waste of time
It is easy to dismiss play as a frivolous waste of time and encourage children to pursue more meaningful endeavours. Whilst educational play, such as flash cards, have their place, it is also crucial to allow the child to organise their leisure time as it allows them to develop a number of interpersonal skills which are difficult to attain elsewhere.
When a child decides what they are going to play with and how the game will go, he or she is using her imagination and experiencing what it is like to be in charge. In every other aspect of their life, children have few choices so play provides them with the freedom to build their self esteem and experiment in a way which is comfortable for them.
It is particularly helpful to encourage your child to explore their creativity by providing them with supplies which don’t directly tell them how to play. Cardboard boxes, dressing up clothes and craft materials are all great tools – and you could well be surprised what your child comes up with!