August 26th, 2016 5 Ways to Build a Playful Environment for Your Child's Development - A Core Pillar in Creating Our Curriculum
Intellectual Growth - Giving the opportunity to explore the environment around them, children use creativity, analysis, and evaluation. All three are considered higher levels of thinking in psychology. Whether children are building a sand castle, painting a picture, or using sticks as fairy wands, they use their imagination and creativity to transform the world around them into whatever they choose.
2. Social Skills - Play also allows children to practice their social skills such as verbal and nonverbal communication, taking turns, cooperating to solve problems and learning how to empathize. These are just a few examples. Think of it as your child’s way of building a foundation of social skills that will last them through adulthood.
3. Self-Management Skills - There is a broad array of self-management skills learned through play. Children practice managing their emotions, behavior, discipline, and esteem through play. When a child plays “house” and pretends to wash dishes or sets the table, they are practicing self-discipline. Play can often be used to also teach children life skills to become independent. For example, going back to setting the table. Allowing your child to independently set the table for the family gives the child a sense of independence and raises their self- esteem. When facing conflict with a friend, they are given the opportunity to identify and manage their emotions.
4. Physical Growth - During play, children get the opportunity to explore their physical capabilities whether through gross motor skills like jumping and twirling or through fine motor skills such as using a button or tying a knot. These skills that are learned now will impact your child’s future learning. For example, the early fine motor skills learned are the first steps to developing the muscles used when writing.
5. Emotional - Children not only experience different emotions personally through play, but they also practice expressing different emotions. When playing “house” with friends, children can usually be seen playing different roles and with those roles they attach common emotions they’ve observed through life experiences. For example, the baby will pretend cry to express his/her unhappiness. Mom/dad will try to console the baby, but after some time they may get frustrated with the crying and express this with a stern voice. Play helps children understand their own emotions and provides a safe place to practice expressing emotions.
How can I help my child’s play?
Structuring your child’s environment has an impact on the degree of stimulating play. For example, if your child has a dress up corner that is full of pre-made costumes, your child is limited to only those characters. This limits the potential for their use of imagination. So if she/he puts on an alligator costume he/she can only pretend to be an alligator with that costume. If you provide various colored/textured silk scarves, on the other hand, your child will be required to use their imagination and creativity to use their scarves as costumes. The more simple the play, the more potential stimulation.
Finally, observe your child’s play. The most important play is child driven where they can explore their interests. If they’re interested in building, provide a range of materials to build with. Such as wooden blocks, sand with water, legos, sticks and rocks, etc. They may be interested in pretend play or sensory. Keep your eyes and ears open for questions they have about the world around them and don’t be afraid to get creative and fun with the play as well!