Why play is important for early childhood development
The value of play in early childhood development cannot be understated. This voluntary pleasurable activity is inherently associated with kids as an act of leisure. As it is often done outside school hours, many people have separated the concept of playing and learning.
Nevertheless, various research and studies have supported the role of playing in the critical development of cognition, motor skills, language, creativity, and social skills. In a nutshell, it affects the holistic early childhood development in multiple aspects.
Unfortunately, the technological development we get to enjoy today plays a critical part in the diminishing interest of children to go outdoors, do physical and mental playing, and interact with other kids. Many children settle for games downloaded in their tablets or smartphones or spend most of the day watching videos online.
It doesn’t help with the fact that based on the reports of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 13.7 million children and adolescents are diagnosed with obesity as a result of genetic predisposition, diet, and lack of physical activities.
A healthy childhood always involves the freedom to play. This general concept is supported by the following benefits of this activity.
- It promotes socialization.
Children typically begin to develop social skills when they engage in games with others. In the early years of their childhood, they usually play with their parents and other adults but then they start to interact with their peers. They learn how to build rapport, share their toys, come up with ideas, imitate regular adult activities like dressing up, sports and races, playing house, etc., and be polite in joining group games.
- It develops decision-making skills.
Brain development is enhanced through critical thinking at a young age. This includes the ability to make sound decisions based on possible outcomes. During playtime, children are bound to make their own decisions whether on how to strategize for a game of catch or find the right hiding place during hide-and-seek. In the process, they weigh down the best options by looking into the magnitude of the consequences.
- It cultivates self-control.
Playing with other children allows them to encounter significant emotions aside from pleasure. In the long run, they get to understand how each emotion affects the atmosphere of the game or their relationship with their playmates. They learn how to control their feelings, negotiate with their peers, give way and make small sacrifices for others, become empathetic, and delay gratifications.
- It allows them to be focused.
A short attention span is common in young children. As a matter of fact, parents and teachers often have to go the extra mile to maintain the children’s attention during learning. But throughout playtime, they get to focus on a particular activity, task, or goal in mind especially if they get so absorbed in playing. The more they enjoy the activity, the more they develop mindfulness which is an essential process to attain success in life.
- It releases stress and anxiety.
Enjoyable activities naturally release brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, along with other happy hormones that improve mood and reduce stress. The pleasurable nature of playing allows children to release the stress they experience. It often becomes an effective outlet for them. And in turn, it prevents a probable escalation towards anxiety and other mental issues.
Playing is almost like an heirloom passed from one generation to another. Traditional games are still around today. Some are modified and new games are continuously created, but the benefits of playing never fade away.
Encouraging our children to play will have a long-lasting impact on their growth. Limit their screen time, bring them to the nearest playground, and let them explore the astonishing advantages of playing.