Play is some serious fun and is fundamental in a child’s development. Babies and children learn through play, Play is a natural way for young children to learn. A well planned indoor and outdoor environment is vital in providing children with absorbing and stimulating activities which enable them to learn through meaningful play experiences.
Any play that involves active movement encourages a child's gross and fine motor skills. Holding and exploring objects develop fine motor and cognitive skills. Gross motor skills include: grasping, running, jumping, dancing, crawling, rolling, catching, carrying, pushing, pulling, kicking, etc. Fine motor skills include: pincer grip - holding an item between finger and thumb, hand and grip control, pre-writing skills, holding a pencil, completing tasks such as threading, sewing boards, pegboard and puzzles.
The physical development of a child is encouraged through engaging in play activities, such as:
Crawling towards a toy they want, to walking with a toy that they push or pull. Playing increases a child's mobility, muscle development and their awareness of their own physical ability.
Songs and games with actions also help physical skills.
Physical play teaches older children the social concepts and turn taking, rules and competition when taking part in games and sports.
Social, and Emotional Development:
Play gives babies and children opportunities to explore social concepts with each other, such as giving, sharing, taking and turn-taking. Language skills occur across each of these sections, and developing too, are emotions. Play helps a child express love, self-awareness, self-esteem and promotes independence.
Play activities to promote emotional development are:
Games or activities that include sharing and giving. Try using each other's names during activities.
Looking at and identifying parts of their body by touch, drawing pictures or looking in the mirror.
Engaging in social and symbolic play - such as puppets, dolls, teddies.
Playing 'peek-a-boo' and 'hide and seek' help to encourage a sense of self and develop independence. These are useful to help with separation anxiety.
Imaginative play explores the world we live in, from pretending a cardboard box is a house or a space ship, to sock puppets and teddy tea parties, play actively encourages a child to learn and express their thoughts and feelings in relation to themselves in the world around them.
Cognitive development refers to understanding and processing information. It is this intellectual ability which helps children find out how things work, which later helps develop skills in mathematics, language and communication (see (link to) Speech and Language). Play activities to help encourage cognitive skills are:
Imitation and copying facial expressions and movements.
Cognitive development is encouraged through playing with age and ability appropriate activities: shape sorters, cause and effect toys, such as pop-ups, building and construction toys such as blocks.
Matching and sorting items are vital in helping young children to classify by grouping.