By Vinita Melwani
Research suggests that children make the maximum synaptic connections from 0-6 years of age, hence making sure they make the right connections is imperative. A lot of these connections happen through play, where children learn a lot about the world. They make associations and retain what they learn faster while having fun. Through play children learn to socialise, think, solve problems and most importantly, have fun as an emotional outlet.
A parent is a child’s first teacher and much of the early teaching happens through play. It is very important for parents to make time to play with their children. It offers a chance to connect with the child. Play begins when a child is an infant and continues throughout his or her life.
The second place where children learn a lot outside the comfort zone of their homes is when they step into preschool. Here they spend the most sensitive years of their lives engaging in free and structured play, interacting with other children and adults and developing social skills while learning to adapt to a new environment. Hence it becomes critical to make ‘preschool’ a ‘happy place’ for children associated with fun, safety and positivity. At preschool, most of the learning happens via different kinds of play.
Simply put, the various kinds of play and their benefits are:
Pretend play/role play: This strengthens their language skills and helps children make associations with the real world.
Physical Play: Playing a sport helps children build their stamina. They learn leadership skills in a group sport and also learn to strategise their next move and more.
Games, puzzles & more: This helps increase their problem-solving abilities, learn mathematical concepts of size, shape and texture.
Play is a major part of a child’s life and constructive play during the critical early childhood years can go a long way towards building the right foundation. Picking the right age appropriate games, toys, etc, is therefore very important. Play also helps develop critical thinking skills necessary to ask questions and figure out how things work. During play with others, children learn manipulation of toys and different objects as they try figure out how different objects work and what they can do with them. They also assign meaning to their play experiences when they can use materials in new and creative ways.
In today’s world, with both parents working, they find it hard to spend quality time with their children. Children of all ages are exposed to technology such as television, computers, play stations, mobiles, etc. Even though the right kind of content also helps the child in the learning process the exposure to the same needs to be limited. Parents need to find a balance between all activities a child should be exposed to. Parents should also make sure they spend enough time with their children to make sure they are learning and grasping the right things.
Play is an essential and critical part of the holistic development of a child.It connects children with their imagination, environment, parents, extended family and the world.
(The writer is Centre Head, Kangaroo Kids International Preschool – Almeida Park.)