Play is one of the most important elements in early childhood development. By giving your child the opportunity to play on their own and with you, you are fostering an environment perfect for learning.
But how? While it may seem that play is just for fun, it is in fact the work of a child. Being brand new to the world, babies and children are developing with every second that passes and by playing, they get to practice and learn all of life’s skills they need as they grow.
According to pediatrician and adolescent specialist Ken Ginsburg MD, FAAP, “Play is essential to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional development of children.”
Even as adults, we learn best by doing. Whether you’re a doctor, chef, customer service rep, or parent, your job has taken a lot of hands-on practice so it’s no surprise that children need the same. By playing, children engage and interact with the world around them and build all the necessary skills to approach a happy and successful life.
What Kind of Play is Best?
“Child-driven play is important in fostering imagination and creativity,” states Ginsburg. When we talk about play as a whole, we are absolutely talking about structured activities like music lessons, sports lessons, and other classes, but what’s more important is open-ended, undirected play. Undirected play allows children to learn to work in groups, to share, practice decision-making, build strong bodies and more.
When your child isn’t programmed with a specific activity, play enables them to make their own choices and really learn and explore what they really like. Being bored, in essence, is a way for children to find something that is fun.
“Childhood boredom is not the problem of parents,” Ginsburg states. “Your child should be able to have the creative skills to be able to make a toy out of sticks and imagination out of clouds.”
As parents, the best way we can foster these skills is with a balance of playing with our children and leaving them to their own devices. Naturally, age plays a very important role in play, but we will cover lots more about that in future posts.
Choosing the Right Toys for Play
The best toys are the ones that create imagination and creativity. Open-ended play with toys like dolls, blocks, train sets, and musical playthings encourage your child to create the fun instead of simply reacting to it as you would with iPad games, electronic toys and others.
Sudha Nistala, our resident educational expert here at Green Piñata, explains the concept of open-ended play – a driving force behind the Green Piñata service.
“Open-ended play allows a child to express his or her creativity with no pressure of finishing the end product,” said Nistala. “They learn problem-solving skills, enhance imagination, improve socio-emotional skills, enhance cognitive skills like working memory and self-regulation too.”
Learning is the greatest result of play, and our hope is that combining these high-quality toys with an age-specific guide and curriculum allows you and your littles ones to get the absolute most out of your precious playtime. It’s clear that learning is critical at a young age, so why not enjoy it as much as you can?
Share your favorite ways to play in the comments below!