The Power of Play

One of my favourite things about working at the Integrated Wellbeing Centre is the amazing meals I get served in the waiting room! Yes, I too was surprised by the first imaginative culinary delight served to me with love by little hands, carried ever so carefully from the play kitchen to the front desk. It is a special moment to be invited into a child’s creative world of play where anything is possible and doing the dishes never seems to be a problem!

Play is an incredibly important part of a child’s development. Through play children learn to communicate and socialise with others, improving speech, imagination and cooperation. Children also have the opportunity to be spontaneous and make choices and to build confidence in their own abilities. They can test their own limits and practise movement and balance. Play is also critical for emotional development allowing children to build resilience, learn impulse control and use problem solving skills. But perhaps the most important of all – it is just plain fun!

Children learn through play by themselves, with each other and with adults. The times when adults engage with children in their play can be very special for children. Allowing even a short time for playing with children every day builds close relationships, as well as helping to build children’s self-esteem but try not to take over. With my first son I spent a lot of time planning fantastic craft activities and made sure I involved him in as many playgroups and junior sports as I could. Not surprisingly we were both burnt out by the end of his first year at school and he never did explore my big box of craft stuff! Play does not need to be structured! It is very easy to get caught up in after school activities and forget to just have some free time in the back yard at home!

Technology is also having a massive impact on the way children play. This is certainly a new challenge to parenting! When children are indoors using computers, iPads or watching tv they are not physically active, not using their imagination and not directly interacting with others. Children of all ages need physical play. You can help by reducing screen time and limiting the use of technology to no more than 2 hours a day.

So the next time you step on a piece of lego in the middle of the night or find half of your kitchen utensils in the sand pit – just remember the power of play and how this creativity is helping your child grow and develop!

Julie Holdback – Early Childhood Educator / Tomatis® Trained

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