Play is the universal language of childhood. Children's lives and learning are full of play. It is through play that children understand each other and the world around them. Through play they develop the skills required for competence in cognitive, creative and social spheres.
Play is defined as a behavior that is self-motivated, freely chosen, and pleasurable. There is no "right way" or "wrong way" in play. Psychologists observe that children enhance cognitive skills through play that involves practice, imagination and re-creation of events. Jerome Bruner believes that play is crucial for the development of intellectual skills (Bruner, Jolly, & Sylva, 1976). In play children can experiment without interference, and in doing so they may build complex abilities. The rules that govern imaginary games teach children to separate thoughts from objects and to exercise self-control (Vygotsky, 1978). Children also learn cooperation, and conflict resolution through play friendships.
Some tips for parents:
- Support your child's play and encourage creativity, cooperation and collaboration. Be a facilitator rather than a supervisor.
- Be involved in your child's play to observe your child's ongoing progress and it will also help you look at various situations in your family life from your child's perspective.
- Introduce your child to games, art, music, dance from different cultures. This will not only broaden your child's horizon but she/he will learn to be sensitive, accepting and tolerant of other cultures as she/he gets older.
- Make play kits for your child, which may include props for story telling, play dough, stick/sock puppets rather than flooding your child's room with some meaningless commercial toys. The kinds of toys children use in their play can influence what and how they play. Buy appropriate toys for your child. Choose toys that will be stimulating to your child. Toys that are unstructured and open-ended such as clay, blocks, generic toy figures and baby dolls, tend to encourage play that children shape in their own ways to meet their needs over time. Single-purpose toys, highly structured toys like batman, power rangers can have the opposite effect. They channel children into playing in a particular way. Replica toys can make it difficult for a child to be creative and imaginative. Thus, creative and imaginative play is replaced by imitative play. When violence is added to the picture, the problem becomes worrisome.
- Children's favorite play spaces are places as angular corners between walls and couches, a pile of dirt, a puddle, a hole, a perch to climb, around the tree, or even a spot where plaster is chipping away and beckons small fingers. As adults you are constantly confronted with your adult instincts for order, cleanliness, and safety. Try to seek to balance your child's and your needs, safety and risk, challenge and convenience, freedom and independence.