Benjamin Spock “Play is the work of the child.”
- Play develops children’s physical skills.
Play helps to develop children’s physical ability: strength, stamina, spatial awareness and handeye coordination, in a natural and enjoyable way.
- Play enables children to burn off surplus energy.
When young children begin to fidget and lose concentration in the classroom, a morning and afternoon playtime offers the perfect, re-energising activity.
- Play helps in the development of children’s social skills.
Free play allows children to work in groups, to share, develop empathy, negotiate, listen to others, learn conflict resolution techniques, acquire an understanding of body language and develop self-advocacy.
- Play helps children to hone their language skills.
Children’s language develops at a ‘needs must’ level during play. The child will want to communicate with peers, so will experiment with new words, use longer sentences and speak more clearly to make themselves understood.
- Play is relaxing for children.
Play is fun, providing opportunities for the child to relax, think about things and daydream.
- Play is learning.
Play cannot be replaced by formal teaching. Many skills can only be acquired through repeated activity, and when children are enjoying themselves and the activity is fun, they will put in the required practice without thought. When young children play with a ball, they will develop the skills necessary to play cricket, netball or football. When children play on sit and ride toys and scooters, they will develop the balance necessary to ride a bike.
- Play reduces stress.
Play enables children to be absorbed in their own interests for long periods of time, acting as an antidote to stress and anxiety.
- Play allows children to learn about themselves and others.
Make believe play offers children the chance to act out aspects of their own lives which may be puzzling or frightening. The children can create a world they can master, helping them to conquer their fears and try out new ideas. When pretending to be a teacher, doctor or dentist, they can put themselves in situations they can withdraw from whenever necessary. The ‘dentist’ could look at their teeth and say that everything is fine, that they are too young to visit the dentist and they will mend their mother’s teeth instead, or wave a fairy wand and make everyone’s teeth perfect. Everything is under the child’s control.
- Play is learning.
Play lays the foundations for later learning. When children paint, colour or play with Lego, beads or plasticine, they are acquiring the fine motor skills necessary for writing. When children play with sand and water, they are developing an understanding of the properties of solids and liquids. Riding a scooter will teach about speed and centres of gravity, roller skating about friction and surfaces, throwing a ball about velocity and angles. It is essential that children’s early learning is practical and based in the real world.
- Play develops creative thought.
Allowing children time for free play will provide opportunities for them to develop their creative thinking.