Importance of Play
and Parental Participation in Childhood Development
When I was a child, play was my profession and all-consuming pastime. In those days, no one analyzed it's value to my development...it was simply childhood. Today, experts acknowledge the impact of imagination and creativity on many important aspects of a child's early emotional, social and intellectual growth.
At first glance, the newest trend of introducing formal learning to babies still in diapers appears to be a good way to charge past the late bloomers and give your child a foot up in our highly competitive society. But this early and prolonged pressure, void of frivolity, could lead to an inability to handle all facets of that competition...including rejection and failure. Without the inclusion of play during your child's development, it is possible, as believed by some experts, that mental burnout could set in before the age of twenty-five.
A well-rounded child needs to play. Think back to when you were young. If you enjoyed hosting a tea party, you were learning life lessons while you filled the cups and passed the cookies. Not only were you sharing with your friends, (either real or imaginary) but you were developing your social skills by mimicking "Alice in Wonderland" or your Mom. You were acquiring grace, poise and generosity without even realizing it.
Learning through exploration and imitation is a child's innate talent. Parents should strive to introduce new skills and lessons through play as a child grows. Remember, your son or daughter will not learn all they need to know from other children. They require your time and loving play to develop emotional balance that will carry and serve them throughout life.
By participating in your child's play, you not only have fun, but you also nurture and encourage social and language skills. Many of these activities, basic flashcards for example, will help to prepare him/her for school. Hands-on play helps to refine listening, reasoning and motor skills. Multi-sensory activities, such as an early introduction to music, will develop the skill of combining touch, sight and sound into one resulting response.
Aside from the obvious educational benefit of play, the physical activity it often inspires is a tremendous plus in a society troubled by the growing rate of obesity in children. Way back when, the school day included an hour of recess. This unfortunate dismissal of such an important addition to physical activity and play has contributed to the ongoing and growing problem of a generation of couch potatoes. As their parent, you can organize outdoor games, rainy day activities and physical challenges that will help to nurture and co-ordinate the sensory-motor development of your child.
Many parents regret their financial inability to provide all of the latest learning gadgets for their child. They fear their son or daughter will never catch up. The truth is, your child will develop his/her language skills much faster if you simply spend time talking, singing or reading to him/her. Begin their fascination with math by counting objects. Count the cars on the road, count the jelly beans at Easter, count anything and everything they are interested in. Inject the concept of comparison, such as short and long, big and small or more and less. It doesn't take money to get your child off to a great start...it only takes your dedication and love.
One thing to keep in mind...as your child's interests develop, allow them to explore what excites them....not you. This will promote a passion for learning and give wings to their self-esteem. Step back, watch and listen to gain insight about your child. Your reward will be a loving, healthy, long-lasting relationship between you and your child. And don't forget to play!"