The role of a child is to play! Learning and knowledge is grounded in physical interaction with the world. When a child moves, they learn balance, coordination, endurance, core strength, visual motor integration, and social skills. Having children engage in intrinsically motivating, child-directed, active, and freely chosen activities is critical for their development.
Why is play important?
- Supports healthy brain growth and development
- Expands cognitive, emotional, social and motor skills
- Allows children to be creative and imaginative
- Enhances problem solving skills
- Helps foster independence
- Allows for opportunity to make choice
- Fosters self-esteem
- Helps manage stress
- Helps form nurturing relationships with caregivers
Active Play vs. Passive Entertainment
- Active Play: The child integrates the senses when actively engaging in intrinsically motivating activity (e.g. building a train track, pedaling a bicycle).
- Passive Entertainment: The child is an observer as something else occurs around them (e.g. watching a train go around a track, riding on a power operated toy).
Passive entertainment is NOT play! It is important that children are engaging regularly in active play.
How can parents support play?
- Respond appropriately by matching the child’s interests, emotions, language level and sensory needs in a pressure-free environment
- Avoid asking too many questions during play
- Avoid giving directions – let the child lead!
Characteristics of toys to foster positive play
- Simple – Household items can be used in a variety of ways (e.g. pots/pans and a ladle or a laundry basket that functions as a pretend play castle)
- Safe and durable (age and developmentally appropriate items)
- Should encourage exploration and problem solving such as cause-and-effect toys