Why is play important in the first place?
In 2010, a research article published in the Hong Kong Journal of Childhood Education deemed play as an important way children learn and develop critical knowledge and skills. Play is now an essential part of many preschool curricula but how can parents distinguish between meaningful and non-meaningful play?
Play takes on many forms depending on how actively engaged a child is, and the amount of outside intervention. The type of play also determines what critical skills (intellectual, social, emotional, physical) and knowledge a child learns. Below are 5 important forms of play:
When play is joyful
Often, children and adults alike laugh and have fun when they play. While overcoming challenges (although sometimes frustrating) are crucial to learning, the overall environment should be one of motivation, thrill, excitement, and joy!
When play is meaningful
Children use play as a vehicle to understand the world around them. When playing, children try to connect their current experience with previous ones, building a holistic understanding of different experiences. Through play, children learn to understand and expand on different experiences.
When play is actively engaging
If you watch children freely play, they become immersed in what they are doing; they lose awareness of their surroundings, time, and space. In an encouraging atmosphere, children have free reign to explore and try new ideas, often involving verbal, physical, and mental engagement.
When play is iterative
Learning through play is not a static process. It involves iterations of testing out new ideas, failing, improving, and eventually discovering even more difficult challenges. This continual cycle of experimentation and improvement ultimately leads to deeper learning, as well as building perseverance.
When play is fun!
Without fun, play is just another activity you do at school. By creating an emotional attachment between enjoyment and play, children are motivated to play more (and hence learn more). At the end of the day, we want our children to be happy, have fun, and create lasting memories.