When you think of your childhood, what do you remember most?
For me it’s the times I spent making houses with my siblings in the garden, riding bikes to my neighbours, pretending to be teachers with my best friend, playing boardgames with my dad, building sandcastles on the beach….
Childhood was always about having the most amount of fun and that meant one thing: playing!
As a kid I would spend hours playing… dinky cars, Barbie dolls, baby dolls, dressing up, drawing, building blocks, decorating dolls houses, climbing trees, making mud pies, playing “school school”, swopping stickers, hiding and seeking, “around the world”, “on-on”, imaginary friends and pretend houses. What were your favourite things to do as a kid??
Childhood years really are the most memorable. Somehow the memories of these days linger longer than many other memories in our lives. I think it must have something to do with the side of our brains that we tap into when we play… the imagination, the make-believe, the magic!
Unfortunately in these modern days of DVD’s and Netflix and PVR and Xbox and iPad (etc etc etc) there’s not too much playing to be had for kids. It’s such a pity that playing is often their last resort (usually after endless nagging about some screen time!)
Playing is SUCH an important aspect of childhood – from babyhood right up to the teenage years (and beyond… even adults benefit from playtime!) There’s no cut off age for play. Kids of all ages should have unstructured time in their schedules in order for them to find time to play. Spending time playing is often how we discover what we love to do the most… and many times adults who are unsure about which direction to take in terms of the career can look back to what they most loved to do in their pre-school years and discover their real passion, and perfect career path!
“It is a happy talent to know how to play.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Playing = learning
Play is the way children learn about themselves, others and the world. In fact there are some schools that don’t teach any work at all… the only “learning” the kids do is through spending all their time playing. And that is exactly what kids should be doing.
The Benefits of Play are numerous. What may look like mere child’s play to you actually takes a lot of work — problem solving, skill building, overcoming physical and mental challenges.
Children over the age of 2 should engage in at least an hour a day of moderate, enjoyable physical activity. Active children grow into active adults!
I recently did some research and rounded up a few of the main benefits of play that you might like to remember the next time you hear “Can I watch something?” or “Can I play on the iPad?”
The Benefits of Play
- Learning to get along with others – in group play children learn how to get along with others and helps them get ready for the everyday experience of interacting with others.
- Sorting out conflicts – The give-and-take of compromising and learning how to negotiate, cooperate, and share are essential life skills that playing teaches kids.
- Improving brain power, cognitive development and language skills – A wide variety of experts agree that play is essential for a child’s brain development. Play helps children develop language and reasoning skills, encourages autonomous thinking and problem solving as well as helps improve their ability to focus and control their behaviour. Play also aids children to develop verbal skills, judgment, reasoning and creativity. Play experiences also teach children about consequences and risk, which helps them in decision making as they grow up.
- Developing fine and gross motor skills – Different types of physical play help develop different skills: skipping takes balance, climbing monkey bars builds strength, and sports activities involve coordination. Fine motor skills are also developed through play. Stacking blocks into towers is not only learning about gravity and balance but also developing hand-eye coordination and building the small muscles of the hand and fingers.
- Building self-esteem – the attention friends and you, the parent, give to your child when playing together is key to building self-esteem. When you or his friends pretend along with him, you’re showing him that you accept his make-believe world, that something he’s interested in is fun and important. When kids take risks and overcome challenges (such as climbing to the top of the jungle gym), they develop a sense of accomplishment which also leads to higher self-esteem.
- Encouraging independence – solitary play helps kids socially, as it develops a strong sense of independence, promotes creativity and imagination and alleviates boredom when they devise their own entertainment. The ability to play on their own is an important life skill.
- Boosting imagination and creativity – one of the cornerstones of childhood is imaginative play because it gives your child a sense of control as he interprets the dramas of everyday life and practices the rules of social behaviour.
- Promoting better behaviour – kids behave better in the classroom when they have the chance to run around on the playground during the school day to release excess energy. I’m pretty sure this would help at home too!
- Providing emotional “down time” – play helps kids to learn how to regulate their own emotions, a skill that will serve them well. Free play helps children develop emotionally: building self-confidence and esteem; experimenting with various emotions; and releasing emotions from trauma.
- Acting as a stress reliever – play is fun, and fun leads to laughter so play is the perfect antidote to a cranky kid! Recent research has found that laughter is a powerful, readily available and cost-free way to boost your mood and psychological well-being.
Play is considered so important to child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child!
Finding time to play with kids can be a challenge if you are working, managing a household and parenting more than one child. But play isn’t optional. It’s essential! Make time to play!
Make sure there’s enough time for play in your child’s schedule, and ensure that your child has time to be just that … a child.
Family schedules are also so very busy these days with a multitude of activities to fit in, but while children need time to play alone and with other children, playing with their parents is also important. As a family shut down the screens for an hour or two a few times a week and find a way to have fun together. Maybe it’s a board game, charades or hide-and-seek. Maybe it’s building a puzzle or a block castle together.
Provide toys that reflect the love and nurturing of your family. Children’s imagination and social skills thrive when they play with toys that provide them the opportunity to express similar emotions to what they see at home, whether it’s a farmer taking care of animals, or playing house with a pretend family.
Fisher Price is one of the very best toy companies around. As a child I, myself, played with so many of their toys.
Who remembers their telephone, portable record player, Little People, toy garage, pull along dog?
Over the years the best baby and pre-school toys around have always been those by Fisher Price… and thanks to their exceptional quality they last long enough for future generations to enjoy, in fact my mom still has a few in her stash for the grandkids to play with when we visit!
Fisher Price are all about play. They believe in letting children be children – free to experience the joy of their own natural desire to learn, imagine, discover, and to care about others – that they will then develop into happy, capable, bigger people.
One of their iconic baby and toddler toys is the Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Puppy.
The sweet little pup comes with 50 sing-along tunes and phrases to help teach your child….
- letters & the alphabet
- numbers & counting
- parts of the body
There are 3 stages to the toy so that it can grow with your child from age 6 months to 3 years.
Level 1 = Explore. First words and sounds to spark curiosity
Level 2 = Encourage. Prompt baby through questions and directions
Level 3 = Pretend. Imaginative fun and early role play
As you can see above this beautiful toy is a lovable, educational and creative toy that will be cherished for years to come.
Images: Kathryn Rossiter, Pixabay and Fisher Price
Parenting advice is given as suggestion only.