Friday, November 25, 2011

Play is the most important activity in the lives of children

Future Engineers?
Masha'allah, so many important skills are learned through 'play'


Human Development and Family Studies
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

Rain, Rain
go away
Come again
some other day,
Little Johnny
wants to play.

-Children's nursery rhyme
Play is the most important activity in the lives of children. Sometimes it seems more important than eating and sleeping. Sometimes play is easy and fun. Sometimes play is trying hard to do something right.

Play is the work, the occupation of childhood. If you study how a child grows, and watch children play, you will understand why play is so important.

This section is for anyone who cares about children and wants to know something about children and their play: Mothers, Fathers, Babysitters, Brothers, Neighbors, Sisters, Teachers,
Grandparents, and Students

When you read this section you will:
  • find out what play really is,
  • learn about the kinds of play,
  • discover how play helps children grow,
  • find out how people who take care of children can help children play,
  • discover fun things to do with children, and
  • find many more books to read if you want to know more about play.
You will see children playing at home, school, church, outside in the yard, at the store, in their room, and in the park. Start now to watch children play.


Play is important because it helps children grow strong and healthy.
When children run, jump, roll, throw, catch, or swing they are building muscles. They burn energy that makes them tired and hungry. Physical play improves strength, endurance, and balance. Body coordination improves when children play in physical ways. Physical play helps
children sleep and eat better.

Play is important because children can learn about the meaning of things in the world.

Games help children learn what words mean, like "stop" or "go." Play with sand and buckets help children learn what "full" or "empty" means. They learn to collect and use information. They learn about time. They discover how things feel and taste. Children learn about art, science, math, music, nature, animals, and people when they play.

Play is important because it helps children learn about people.
While playing, children will learn to take turns and share. They will act out their feelings, listen and talk to playmates, and follow rules. They will try leading and following. They will start to understand themselves and others. Play helps them know what they like and what they don't like. During play they can pretend what it's like to be someone else, like a firefighter, doctor, mother, or teacher. They can pretend they are a baby or grandfather.

Play is important because it helps children learn and grow in a way that helps them feel good about themselves.
Children enjoy play. It is easier to learn when we are relaxed. We remember things we've done when the things were fun. Even when play is hard, children are excited when they discover that they can control their bodies and actions. "I did it!" means "I feel good about me." Good play offers children success.

Play is important because it is practice for being grown-up.
Children at play learn to pay attention and to stick with a job. They learn to face problems and solve them. Play helps them learn what is right and wrong. They learn to be good sports, honest, and not to cheat. Children develop their imagination when they play. They learn to follow directions. All these skills will be important when children become grownups.


Did you ever think about all the different ways children play? You could make a long list, but it is easier to remember if we put them into groups.
Children are supposed to be active. They will swing, cut, saw, pound, roll, spin, and run. They will have contests and races. They will form teams and play "red rover" or jump rope alone. Children need lots of space for playing ball, but not much space to play jacks. Children enjoy dancing.
This kind of play is make-believe play where children can act out their wishes: "I wish I were a princess; let's pretend we're going to the moon; let's play dress-up; I'll be a firefighter." Children can pretend they are anything - a person, animal, car, or even a banana! Children can act out stories, write a play, or have a circus.
Children are free to create new things - pictures, designs, ways to do things. They paint, cut, sew, draw, build, twist, and write. They sing, hum, whistle, or beat a drum.
Young children like to play alone, but around 3 years they will begin to play with others. Think of all the things two or more children can do together. Social play is interaction between children. Group games, races, talking to each other on toy telephones, and playing house are social activities.
Mental play is exploring and discovering. Words, numbers, touching, tasting, and seeing are part of mental play. Children use their minds to remember what cards have been played and plan how to win a card game. A baby learns that someone picks up what the baby drops from the high chair. It becomes a "game." Children count and read. They start collections; butterflies, stamps, insects, and coins and learn to classify them. It is fun to find a new thing to add to a collection. Children tell jokes and riddles about flowers on a nature walk, and learn colors from balloons.

There are many more ways that children play. You will learn more about the kinds of play when you read *Good Times with Toys*.


Play helps children grow and change in four ways: physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. As you learn about these, there is one important thing to remember: all children are different. You will notice this as you watch children play. You will see differences in children who are the same age. A child who cannot throw a ball at all now may throw a ball better than anyone the next time you see the children play. Remember, there is a general path of development that all children will follow, but all children will not go the same way at the same speed. Some babies crawl for a long time, while other babies stand and walk without crawling much at all. Even twins grow in different ways at different times. Understanding that there are individual differences in the speed and style of growing is an important principle of human development.
When children play they learn to use muscles. Gross motor play involves the large muscles. Fine motor play involves use of smaller muscles. Large muscles like those in their arms and legs get stronger and work better as children run, hop, and climb. Small muscles in fingers and toes become more controlled.

Babies grasp with their whole hands; 4-year-olds can easily pick up little pieces. The ability to balance comes with the practice of walking along curbs, climbing trees, and monkey bars, and playing hop scotch. When parts of the body work together so that the whole body moves smoothly and accomplishes a task, it is called coordination.

Children have a lot of energy. They need lots of chances to play physically in order to burn up energy, then they sleep and eat better, so they will continue to grow. At all ages, motor coordination ability depends on play experience. If children do not have enough chances to
draw and paint, they will not be as skilled as children who do have these play experiences. An infant looking at a colorful mobile over the crib is developing eye muscles. The child's eyes follow the movement and color.

When children learn to walk, they want to pull things across the room. The toddler jumps and runs and builds a block tower. The preschool child uses a wooden hammer to pound pegs, rides a tricycle, and climbs. They take a puzzle apart and put it back together again. In doing this they are learning to use their fingers. They want to touch the ice in their glass or taste the soap.

Children of school age keep on growing. The 6- and 7-year-old uses crayons and scissors to color and cut with skill. The 8- and 9-year-old can hit a ball with a bat, ride a bicycle, jump rope, and play jacks. Older children can thread a needle, catch a fly ball, build a model plane or car.
When children play they learn to use their minds. An important child psychologist, Jean Piaget, who studied how children develop, has helped us understand a lot about how children learn. They learn through their senses, by tasting, smelling, seeing, feeling, and hearing different things wherever they are playing. They learn size, color, texture, and weight. Counting in early childhood leads to skills in reasoning and logic in later childhood.

Games and play should be hard enough to challenge a child, yet easy enough to prevent failure and long term frustration. Children become bored with toys and games that are too easy. The challenge of making something work, figuring out problems (like where a puzzle piece goes),
and building or rearranging something helps children grow.

Children do a lot of experimenting when they play. They discover for themselves that dirt tastes terrible. While playing they learn that some toys are heavier than others, that a ball bounces, and boats float. They learn the names of colors and that some things will hurt them. They learn to imitate what others do and how sharing works.

Children like to think hard about what they are doing and try out their own ideas. They can solve the problem of building blocks so they will stand high. Finding the pieces of the puzzle that belong in certain places and dressing and undressing a doll are pleasant problem-solving activities. Play helps minds and bodies work together to finish a task.

Children's creative imagination is used when they make things from materials on hand. A child can decide what to do with blocks, sand, paper, water, boxes, paints, crayons, paste, rhythm instruments, kits or supplies for playing store, or costumes for dress-up. The real fun of playing comes from doing something with things. Simply watching others do things or watching a mechanical toy does not provide the child with creative enjoyment.
How children relate to other people is called social development. People who have studied children's play noticed that children relate to people in different ways at different ages.
Early Play (Infant) Most of an infant's play is with parents and other family members.
Babies like this play and the good feeling it brings. You can sing to babies, move their hands and feet, nuzzle their tummy, and the babies will smile, laugh, and coo. When baby is a little older, simple games like peek-a-boo are fun. Babies especially like the good feelings that come from being talked to and held close.
Solitary Play (Toddler) The toddler enjoys playing alone. At this age there is little play with
other children of the same age, though they may walk around each other. Older toddlers, about the age of 2 1/2, will begin to relate to other children by touching and speaking to them.
Parallel Play (Preschool) At this stage, children enjoy being with each other, but they do not
interact very much. They will play side by side, watch, and listen to each other. They sometimes may fight over the same toy.
Associative Play (Preschool) Children still are doing their own thing. They often do the same thing as other children, but they do not do it together. Children sitting side by side in a sandbox will repeat what the others are doing.
Cooperative Play (Preschool) When speaking and listening skills are more developed, children can communicate. They plan, and tell each other what to do. They do things in response to what others do. They pretend to play house, be a mother and father, and try out relationships.
Later Play (School) School-age children structure their play with rules and time limits. All
those playing together are expected to play fair. They choose up sides and form teams. They take turns.
Drawing, painting, and music encourage self-expression. Play helps children feel good as they learn to control their actions and bodies. They are happy when they learn to enjoy the beauty of colors, the rhythm of a melody, or the action of games. Playing with dolls, stuffed animals, or carpenter tools also may help them express anger or hurt. They often work out feelings in play that they dare not show in everyday living. Children act out their hopes and fears in creative play. When children are encouraged to tell their own stories, paint their own picture, act out their own feelings, or build their own pretend world, they are better able to hold onto their own hopes and dreams. Without that support, dreams may fade. Ambition and self-approval may decline. Snuggling up to children, gently patting or stroking them can give children a feeling of security. When someone is not around to play with a child, a familiar blanket or a furry toy animal will comfort the child.

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