Playing during childhood is crucial for human development and has a profound impact on the construction of a child's own thinking and therefore has to be an integral part of our children's world.
When children play, they express their language through gestures and attitudes which are full of meaning, since they invest their emotions in this activity. It is also a way of exposing the fears, anxieties and problems that the child faces. Thus, play should be seen as something meaningful and fundamental for children's development.
The relationship between playing and education is not only discussed at this time. This has always been present at different times and has been the object of study throughout time, which allows us today to better understand the historical aspects of playing.
Among the Egyptians, Romans and Mayans, games were used for the transmission of knowledge and values, from the older to the younger generations.
In the 20th century, researchers have already looked into this subject, such as Vygotsky and Piaget. Vygotsky considered play as a result of the social influences that children receive through contact with their surroundings and Piaget saw playing as a vehicle for intellectual development. As the child grows, playing becomes more meaningful.
The concept of play is intricately related to fun, exploration, imagination, learning and creativity. When children play, they represent the world around them, imitate everyday situations, reinvent moments they have experienced and still develop situations through their imagination.
When the child plays, (s)he becomes aware of (her)himself, others and the world around him.
Play is present and is part of the child's growth:
- Babies discover and get to know their own body through playing with their caregivers. They begin to manipulate objects and discover sensations.
- Between the 12 and 36 months, the children show an interest in matching and building games and also begin to play make-believe games and interact with other children, although most of the time they only play side by side.
- By the age of 36 months, children are already starting to play and interact with others directly, and conflicts may also arise - they are discovering their limits and those of others. At this age, they prefer to play with one or two little friends rather than with the whole group, while developing more autonomy.
- At preschool age (between 4 and 5 years old) children begin to create games and play in a more organized and cooperative way, i.e. they play as a group and manage to organize themselves, each playing a role.
We can then say that playing is an activity that contributes positively to the development of the child, be it linguistic, social, cognitive, motor, physical, sensorial or affective.
Still not convinced? Then I give you at least eleven reasons to encourage your child to play:
Stimulates creativity and imagination
Allows better self-knowledge
Teaches to negotiate
Helps the immune system
Improves mental health
Teaches to incorporate rules
Promotes social interaction
Teaches how to deal with frustration
Increases the ability to work as a team.
So, now that we have a number of reasons to sit down and play with our children, you have no idea what to do? Here are some ideas:
Playing pretend - who doesn't like an imaginary tea at 10am?
Board games - Often, the relics we keep from childhood, such as board games - the Monopoly, the Game of Glory, the Cluedo or the Trivial Pursuit - can be used again.
Scientific experiments - At home we have many ingredients and materials to make scientific experiments with children. There are simple activities with water or light, or even experiments to perceive concepts like heredity and genes.
Craftsmanship - Certainly you have at home boxes with coloured pencils, cardboards, glue, etc. You can even use the materials that were destined for recycling: packaging, yoghurt cups or egg cartons. Everything can be precious when it comes to awakening creativity. Think about a few challenges: creating a sculpture, desk material, book markers.
Why not make origamis? Look for tutorials on the internet!
Build a theatre - Creating a theatre can be as simple as taking a cardboard box that's about to be recycled and turning it into a stage to bring a story to life. Family members can be the actors or they can even make puppets!
Build a camp or fort inside - use the blankets, clothes springs, Christmas lights, challenge yourself.
Tidying-up game - try to make the house tidy a leisure time
Go out and play ;)