The need of Play for Children
In India, Children’s play has not been given the priority and attention it deserves, both by parents and schools. For many complex reasons, opportunities for play are diminishing, due to changes in the environment, technology, lifestyle and society. Play allows children to experience fun, joy and laughter in a way that is important to them.
Play opportunities improve memory and stimulate the growth of the cerebral cortex. Play and exploration trigger the secretion of Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF), a substance essential for the growth of brain cells. Kids pay more attention to academic tasks when they are given frequent, brief opportunities for free play.
Importance of Play
Develops Language Skills & Promotes Creative Problem Solving
Reduces Fear, Anxiety, Stress and Irritability
Improves Emotional flexibility and Openness
Creates Joy, Intimacy and self-esteem
Increases empathy, compassion and sharing
Increases range of motion, agility, coordination, balance, flexibility and fine and gross motor exploration.
Stages of Play
- New Born (0 yrs. – 2 yrs.): Unoccupied play is when the child remains stationary and engaged in random movements with no objective. This is an important setting stage for future exploration and development.
- Young Toddlers (2 yrs. – 3 yrs.): Solitary playis when thechildren will often play alone with toys different from others, and remain uninterested or unaware of what others around them are doing.. This type of play teaches children how to entertain themselves.
- Younger Children (2.5 yrs. – 3.5 yrs.): Onlooker play is when child observes others playing but does not join the play.
- Toddlers (2.5 yrs. – 3.5 yrs.): Parallel Play occurs when children play side-by-side from one another, but there is a lack of group involvement amongst them. Although it looks like there is a very little contact between them, these children are learning valuable social skills and learn a lot from one another.
- Pre-School age (3 yrs. – 4 yrs.): Associate Play where children will begin to play together, but not focused towards a common goal. A child will be more interested in playing with the other children around them then the individual toys they play with.
- Late Pre-School age (4 yrs. – 6 yrs.) Cooperative Play where play finally becomes organized into groups and teamwork is seen. Children are now interested in both the people that they are playing with as well as the activity in hand.
Screen time and Brain development
One of the major reason for decline of play in early childhood is also the increase in screen time. Spending more than seven hours daily on smartphones and tablets may change the structure of a child’s brain. Excessive exposure to screens, especially at early ages, has been associated with lower academic performance, increased sleep problems, obesity, behavior problems, lower self-esteem and depression.
Play isn’t the enemy of learning, it is learning’s partner. Play is the fertilizer for brain growth. Play is learning for kids.