We call it play, the work children do all the day long. From rolling a ball to mouthing it, from building with blocks to knocking them down, a child’s job is to play.
Children learn and grow through play. Toys that mimic every day objects such as kitchen appliances, dress-up clothes, or gardening tools help a child to act out what he sees the grown-ups doing. Toys that specifically encourage creativity, like blocks, scarves, and Legos equip children as they use their ever-amazing minds to construct and pretend.
“Given its all-consuming and pervasive nature, it is not surprising that play makes major contributions to growth and development during the preschool years.” (p. 61) The Preschool Years: Family Strategies That Work – From Experts and Parents by Ellen Galinsky and Judy David. According to the authors, here are seven benefits of play:
1. Play fosters a positive self-concept.
2. Play promotes language development.
3. Play stimulates thinking and problem-solving.
4. Play enables children to understand the world.
5. Play is a forum for children to express and resolve their feelings.
6. Play enhances creativity.
7. Play develops social skills and social thinking.
As parents, we want our children to have the best toys to help with their development. After all, creating a stimulating home environment is the least we can do. But the most important play-thing that your child can have does not come in a box or from a store. Children need the significant adults in their lives to stop, sit, and become co-workers at play. It’s easy to delight a child with a new toy and walk away. But what a child needs most is intentional and personal interaction with the adults in her life as she learns and grows.
It’s hard to take a break from what we view as important: work-related issues, financial problems, or the upkeep of a home. But investing daily in the lives of our children by sitting down with them, allowing them the freedom to choose what to play, following them and labeling their actions, and resisting the urge to organize and perfect their play is the most important work that you can do as a parent.
The simple act of investing time, do it today. A few minutes will make a lifetime of difference.