The value of play

Play may not always be a neat and tidy experience but the benefits are enormous.

As adults we often try to justify the value of play – which is not difficult, but children don’t feel the need to justify – they just do. In playing they are forming the foundations of future learning. Something that we seek to research, explain and promote is a natural way for children to operate.

When a child enters kindergarten they have already learnt an enormous amount about their world. They have learnt to communicate using a language that is rich, complex and variable. They have learnt to coordinate their movements enough to walk, jump and crawl. They have learnt to feed and dress themselves. They have learnt about emotions and emotional responses. All of this without formal instruction.

As children move through stages of development their play changes.  They move from solitary play to more cooperative forms of play. This means they play with others, sharing ideas, negotiating, learning when to give way and when to stand firm.

When left to their own devices, children’s play generates a culture of childhood. A culture enriched by a child’s imagination and emancipated from the limitations of adults. Play also helps develop resilience. It facilitates creativity. It provides time for parents and caregivers to be fully engaged with their children, to bond with them, and to see the world from their perspective.

play is not just a child’s right but also essential for learning

Megan Mitchell, the National Commissioner for Children tells us that play is not just a child’s right but also essential for learning: 'research tells us that play is essential for the development of children’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical wellbeing'.  There is now evidence that neural pathways in children’s brains are influenced and advanced in their development through exploration, thinking skills, problem solving, and language expression that occur during play.

As parents we can show we value play – by allowing our children time and space in which to do it. Megan Mitchell says 'Our children should be able to play in their own time, according to their own rules, in their own way and for their own reasons'. Researchers such as Lester and Russell agree: 'We must exercise caution and not make it too much an object of adult gaze. Children’s play belongs to children; adults should tread lightly when considering their responsibilities in this regard, being careful not to colonise or destroy children’s own places for play through insensitive planning or the pursuit of other adult agendas, or through creating places and programmes that segregate children and their play.'

Annie Nolan - Education Officer: Early Years

Holy Rosary  Play  Exploring

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