Children and Play: Role of Play in Early Childhood

No, it isn’t a Child’s Play!

“Our children from their earliest years must take part in all the more lawful forms of play, for if they are not surrounded with such an atmosphere they can never grow up to be well conducted and virtuous citizens.”- Plato

These are the words of one of the greatest thinkers & philosophers the world has known. Plato believed in the importance of play and that play influences children profoundly and that it shapes them into responsible and well-adjusted adults. There are numerous other benefits of play. But some parents, unfortunately, tend to characterize play and learning as opposites of each other! A play is considered by them as unimportant, trivial and lacking in any serious purpose.

Play in early childhood: What does “Play” mean to a child?

Play for a child is a natural, instinctive, entertaining and rewarding activity. It is often a self initiated play.

While children do not engage in play for its learning outcomes, yet numerous studies have shown that play contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well being of children. Play and child development are two subjects that are deeply wedded to each other in early childhood. Children learn through play, even if that is not their intention.

Types of Play and their role in Child Development

Broadly, children’s play can be clubbed into a few categories below.
•Large-Motor Play
In this form of play, children use their big muscles while playing like run, slide, swing, jump, and climb or engage in every type of movement possible. Large Motor play develops coordination, balance, and a sense of one’s body in the space around it.

•Fine-Motor Play
Children play with small toys and indulge in activities like playing with puzzles and sorting objects into types. This type of play develops dexterity.

•Mastery Play
Children tend to repeat an action in play and continue until they master it, such as making a paper boat etc. This kind of play has an important role to play in the development of executive functioning skills.

•Rules-based Play
Children gradually learn to play with others, control their behavior and conform to a structure of pre-set rules. Children enjoy the challenge of making up their own rules and the negotiation involved in adapting the rules for each play situation.

•Constructive Play
Children learn the use of different materials, put things together based on a plan, develop and use strategies for reaching their goal. For example, using blocks or Lego pieces, children enjoy building houses, trains, and other structures. This form of play requires skill and imagination.

•Make-believe (Pretend) Play
This broad category incorporates many other play types and is rich with language, problem-solving, and imagination. Children take on a role, pretend to be someone else and use real or pretend objects to play out a role.
• Symbolic play
Children take an object at hand and convert it into the toy or prop they need through a fluid process of fantasy or imagination. Most children enjoy playing with dirt, sand, mud, water, and other materials with different textures, sounds and smells. Such play develops their senses.

•Language Play
Children develop mastery by playing with words, rhymes, verses, and songs they make up or change. They tell stories and dramatize them. They are fascinated by foreign languages, especially when they are presented playfully in story, verse, or song.

•Rough-and-tumble Play
This fundamental form of play in children is physically vigorous behaviors, such as wrestling, falling, chasing and plays fighting. This type of play allows a child to understand the limits of their own strength and discover what other children will and won’t allow them to do. Parents should look at ways to making this type of play safe and socially acceptable, rather than dissuading it completely.

•Risk-taking Play
Children extend their abilities through risky play and learn to master challenging environments. They generally know how far they can go without hurting themselves. Unfortunately, as parents, our increased focus on making our homes as risk-free as possible gives children little chance to assess risks and set their own boundaries. As parents ourselves we understand the importance of baby-proofing our homes and surroundings. Our advice to parents is that the children should be allowed for some risk-taking play as it has an important role to play in child development.

So after ample research, we know that how children and play are very important and are linked to each other.