Importance of Play

Importance of Play

June 27, 2016
By
By Susan Hutchison B.A., M.Ed., Director, Junior School

Summer months unfold ahead. What is planned for your child? This summer, allow opportunities for your child to experience the joy of play. Respect and value unstructured play. Remember, play is serious learning which is essential in a well-rounded childhood.
 
In school, we talk about a balanced lifestyle. We strive to keep break and lunch open for playtime. Adults, intuitively, understand the importance of work, strong work habits, time management skills, and a positive work ethic. But, what exactly is the importance of play? How can we further our understanding of the value of play for children?
 
What is play? Play is any open-ended, self-initiated, enjoyable activity. Play is unstructured; it can change spontaneously; it has ambiguous rules and guidelines. Play is highly emotional. It completely engages a child alone or with others. Children become deeply invested and absorbed in play. Play is an intrinsically rewarding endeavour.
 
High-quality play experiences provide opportunities which are vital for the development of your daughter. Play is serious business; it is essential to the formation of the brain and the understanding of concepts. Connections in the brain are formed as a child explores and creates a world through play. She tests and imitates. At play, a child constructs knowledge, practices understanding about her world, solves problems creatively and challenges herself. Play involves the use of different materials in symbolic representation. Leaves can be food; sticks can be a house for imaginary creatures. In true play activities, a child’s brain is rapidly integrating intellectual, language, social, emotional, and motor learning. Play is the quintessential higher level critical and creative thinking assignment – the synergy of all aspects of the brain and all life experiences.
 
Play relieves stress; it is calming and allows a child the freedom to work through problems, face difficulties, and uncover solutions. She can play with anything – ideas, challenges, principles, fears, success, grief, anger, happiness, failure, illness, war or peace. At play, a child is free to reflect on emotions and dreams. Play involves creativity and the use of the imagination. A child discovers a lightness and freedom through play that is unfound in other areas of her life. Children who have many opportunities for meaningful play are often well-adjusted and resilient young people. Furthermore, they develop the capacity to be innovative and inventive as adults.
 
Play is frequently misunderstood. We believe that scheduled or organized activities outside of school qualify as play. Organized sports, camps, and lessons are not play based activities. Some adults consider that computer games or watching a movie represent play. I suggest that play is difficult to schedule. Meaningful play evolves as a result of free, peaceful, unstructured time. True play can not be orchestrated by adults; the stage can be prepared by an adult but the child is in charge. We must have trust in our children that their play is important.
 
In July and August, remember to build free time dedicated to the important work of play into the schedule for your child.